After the delightful fantasy Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam's next film turned to man at middle age trying to escape a vaguely Orwellian society, where a simple administrative error can change someone's entire existence. Brazil turned out to be the first of three collaborations with Michael Kamen and in some ways, remains the most satisfying. Perhaps the simplest description of Kamen's music would be eclectic pastiche. The main theme is based on a song, Aquarella Dos Brasil, by Harry Barrosso and Kamen transforms it through dozens of dramatic variations. These range from samba to melodrama to melancholy to heroic - it's a surprisingly malleable melody and Kamen's endless way with orchestration and musical styles pushes the theme beyond its original intent. For example, the dissonant horror of Ducting Dream (sounds like a nightmare to me) seems as far from the bouncing guitar and whistling version that accompanies Geoff Muldaur's vocal version.
To the annoyance of some, I'm sure, there are small snatches of dialogue throughout the album. None of them really make much sense out of context of the film, but are brief and generally quite amusing and don't trample over any important music. Perhaps the score's biggest surprising comes in the final reels where Kamen adapts aspects of Richard Strauss' tone poem Ein Heldenleben, while shaping much of his own music - and Barrosso's melody - into Strauss' style. Escape and The Battle sound like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves scored by Richard Strauss, with some typically Kamen like horn fanfares, but the kind of orchestration and harmonic twists that are very much of Strauss' music. After the drama of the final sequence, Bachianos Brazil Samba is an amusingly frivolous way to end, yet the anarchic change of pace is entirely suitable after what has gone before. Despite its eclecticism, Brazil is surprisingly coherent and some credit must go to Emmanuel Chamboredon, who is credited with 'conceiving and realizing' the album. Michael Kamen's manic side in its finest expression.