Friday, September 19, 2014
The Zero Theorem
Directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Pat Rushin, The Zero Theorem is the story of a reclusive computer genius who tries to see if there’s any meaning to life through a formula where he endures a series of surreal misadventures. The film is a dystopian film of sorts set in the future as it recalls many of Gilliam’s films from the past while going into a man dealing with his own identity and his place in the world. Starring Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, Lucas Hedges, Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis, and Matt Damon as the Management. The Zero Theorem is a dazzling yet whimsical film from Terry Gilliam.
Set in a futuristic world, the film explores the troubled life of an eccentric computer programmer whose job is to find the meaning of life through a theory as he ponders about his own existence where he encounters a series of oddball characters during his journey. Yet, it all plays into this programmer who is also very reclusive as he await a phone call that he thinks could have some meaning. During his time in his home where he works continuously to find answers, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) deals with his own loneliness as he often refers to himself as “we” where he starts to fall for a young woman in Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) as well as gain the aid of his boss’ son Bob (Lucas Hedges) where they would get him to showcase a world outside of his work and obsession to find answers.
Pat Rushin’s screenplay does create some unique ideas about existentialism as well as faith where Qohen is a man who seeks answers that are beyond the world he works for as he often crunch numbers to see if there are any answers. Qohen is a man that often dreams about being sucked into a black hole in his feeling that there’s nothing in the world as he is asked by the mysterious known as Management to find these impossible answers. Qohen takes the job because he has nothing to live for where his meetings with Management would be very strange. While he spends a year working to prove this theory in his home, he rarely has human contacts where the odd visits he receives from Bob, Bainsley, and his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) would be very strange. Even as he learns what Bainsley does as it would complicate things as she would be the one person who shows him that there’s more to life than nothingness.
Terry Gilliam’s direction is quite extravagant in some ways in not just the world that Qohen lives but also the idea of dystopia where it’s more offbeat rather than oppressive. Yet, it does have some satirical comedy about the way technology drives the world such as a party scene where everyone is holding tablets rather than communicate with words. Gilliam’s direction has him utilizing not just close-ups and medium shots but these intricate crane shots to play into Qohen’s sense of loneliness. Especially as he rarely goes outside as he prefers to stay home to await a phone call where there’s an intimacy that Gilliam creates. The artificial world that Qohen would encounter would display his own lack of humanity and struggles along with the idea of what it could be once the fear is gone. Overall, Gilliam creates a very sensational yet compelling film about a man seeking answers in a very troubled world.
Cinematographer Nicola Pecorini does excellent work with the many of the film‘s stylized interior lighting schemes for the party scenes and the main base of where Qohen works at plus an offbeat look to some of the film‘s exterior settings. Editor Mick Audsley does fantastic work with the editing with its rhythmic approach to play into the film‘s humor as well as in some of the dramatic moments. Production designer David Warren, with art director Adrian Curelea and set decorators Jille Azis and Gina Stancu, does amazing work with the set design from the home that Qohen lives in to the look of the city and the place where Qohen works at. Costume designer Carlo Poggioli does brilliant work with the stylized costumes that includes some of the camouflage suits that Management wears in his surroundings as well as the clothes that Bainsley wears.
Hair/makeup designer Kristin Chalmers does terrific work with the hairstyle that Qohen would wear in his fantasy as well as the wig that Bainsley wears in one of her visits. Visual effects supervisors Felix Lepadatu, Jonah Loop, and Fredrik Nord do superb work with the visual effects where it is minimal in some respects from the fantasy world that Qohen and Bainsley live in to the image of the black hole. Sound designer Andre Jacquemin does nice work with the sound work from the sound effects of the cameras that are watching Qohen to the scenes that occur that play into Qohen‘s troubled state of mind. The film’s music by George Fenton is wonderful for its mixture of eerie orchestral music with some offbeat electronic music with the soundtrack featuring electronic dance music and a jazz cover of Radiohead’s Creep.
The casting by Irene Lamb is incredible as it features an array of offbeat cameos from Gwendoline Christie, Ray Cooper, Lily Cole, and Rupert Friend as people seen on commercials, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Peter Stormare, and Ben Whishaw as a trio of oddball doctors, and Robin Williams in an un-credited appearance as televangelist. Other notable small roles include Emil Hostana and Pavlic Nemes as a couple of clones, Dana Rogoz as a sexy pizza girl, and Tilda Swinton in a very hilarious performance as Dr. Shrink-Rom as an artificial shrink who can bust some mad rhymes. Matt Damon is excellent in a small but very memorable performance as the boss known as Management as he appears in the oddest circumstances as it’s Damon playing it very straight.
David Thewlis is amazing as the supervisor Joby who tries to get Qohen to be more outgoing while also being a friend of sorts as he tries to prepare Qohen for what he will endure. Lucas Hedges is fantastic as Bob as this whiz-kid who helps Qohen in uncovering the theory as well as dealing with Qohen’s reclusive behavior. Melanie Thierry is brilliant as Bainsley as this mysterious young woman who meets Qohen at a party as she is intrigued by his personality while getting him to be more open as she would fall for him. Finally, there’s Christoph Waltz in a remarkable performance as Qohen Leth as this very reclusive man who deals with his own existence as well as faith as he tries to uncover a mystery as it’s a performance that features Waltz at his most vulnerable as well as his restrained approach to humor.
The Zero Theorem is an extraordinarily fun and exhilarating film from Terry Gilliam. Armed with a great cast led by Christoph Waltz as well as some amazing technical work and some compelling themes on faith and existentialism. The film is definitely one of Gilliam’s finest works as it proves that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. In the end, The Zero Theorem is a marvelous film from Terry Gilliam.
Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Time Bandits - Brazil - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - The Fisher King - 12 Monkeys - Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - Tideland - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam
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