It is not sufficient to define bureaucracy by a rigid segmentarity with compartmentalization of contiguous offices, an office manager in each segment, and the corresponding centralization at the end of the hall or on top of the tower.–Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 214
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil envisions a world defined by bureaucracy and its oceans of paperwork, terror-inducing government forms identifiable by their jumble of numbers, letters, and backstrokes, and inefficient, inflexible administrative mechanisms. Gilliam’s bureaucratic future is indeed nonrigid and noncompartmental, and there exists nowhere in the film a central office, either at the end of a hall or the top of a tower. Bureaucracy’s internal operations are diffuse, mostly nonhierarchical, nonlocalized. But the film’s molar lines don’t interact with other lines, leaving a critique that targets only bureaucracy’s inhumanity and lack of compassion.
For at the same time there is a whole bureaucratic segmentation, a suppleness of and communication between offices, a bureaucratic perversion, a permanent inventiveness or creativity practiced even against administrative regulations. If Kafka is the greatest theorist of bureaucracy, it is because he shows how, at a certain level (but which one? it is not localizable), the barriers between offices cease to be “a definite dividing line” and are immersed in a molecular medium (milieu) that dissolves them and simultaneously makes the office manager proliferate into microfigures impossible to recognize or identify, discernible only when they are centralizable: another regime, coexistent with the separation and totalization of the rigid segments.
The contours of bureaucracy in Brazil that determine the molar elements (classes, the state, male or female, etc.) largely leave untouched the molecular lines, what Deleuze and Guattari call the “flows and particles eluding those classes, sexes, and persons.” It’s not just that the wealthy continue their banquets while their restaurant is bombed by terrorists, but that the micropolitical exists autonomously from the molar–even the poor and destitute, ostensibly the victims of bureaucracy’s operations, are untouched by them, out of reach of its logic and processes.
For Gilliam, the hero’s fantasy, his (day)dream of slaying the monster, rescuing the girl, and making an escape, is his line of flight. But this line of flight is free of all of the “problems” that Deleuze and Guattari identify with lines–most specifically, it is a line that attempts to operate by transcendence. For Deleuze and Guattari, “[l]ines of flight are immanent to the social field…. No one of them is transcendent, each is at work within the others.” In Brazil, the hero’s fantasy is merely that, a line that never engages with or is affected by the molar and molecular lines, and so it is impotent from the start.