This article is from the Brazil - Movie, 1985 FAQ, by David S. Cowen firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
A subplot that many viewers of BRAZIL seem to miss entirely is that
of Information Retrieval charging. "Information Retrieval" is a euphemism
for "interrogation" or "torture." The extent of Information Retrieval
Charging is revealed in Deputy Minister Conrad Helpmann's interview, which
is shown on the telescreen while a technician swipes at the beetle which
determines the fate of the movie. The interviewer asks the Deputy Prime
Minister about the economics of the terrorist situation, and the Deputy
Prime Minister replies:
"I understand this concern on behalf of the taxpayers.
People want value for money. That's why we always
insist on the principal of Information Retrieval
charges. It's absolutely right and fair that those
found guilty should pay for their periods of detention
and the Information Retrieval procedures used in their
The check Lowry delivers to Mrs. Buttle is a check for the amount
debited from the Buttle's charge account when Mr. Buttle was interrogated
and killed (because of Information Retrieval's torturous methods) early in
the film. The police officer says to Sam after he is strapped into the
chair at the torture chamber "Don't fight it son, confess quickly. If you
hold out too long, you could jeopardize your credit rating." Note that
this is not merely a funny line; a scene present only in the ER (and
presumably in the forthcoming laserdisc) has a MOI official arranging a way
for Sam to pay his charges via installments.
Inspiration for this subplot may have possibly stemmed from German
history -- the Nazis were known to charge Jews for their forced passage to
the concentration camps. Gilliam has mentioned that he discovered that
South American countries were also charging for interrogation and torture,
and the practice was also used during the Salem witch trials.