The Zero Theorem Reviews
Terry Gilliam's art department is on full display, but his skill as a story-teller isn't. The scene design pops, and Gilliam's frenetic future is both frighteningly possible and a visual feast. He moves the camera deftly but often, which seems contradictory.
The story, however, is weird. Qohen's job looks like a video game with obscure math equations, and it only gains significance in the third act, and even then, the narrative has already been distracted by a ham-handed love plot that defies credibility (why is she apologizing and believing in the relationship when the previous scene involved his over-zealous advances?). It's all very pretty and confusing, which are the best two adjectives for Gilliam's work as a whole.
Overall, some fun art direction doesn't save this weak story.
Since first coming to fame as an animator for Monty Python, Terry Gilliam's strength as a filmmaker has been his visuals. And that is especially true with his latest film, "The Zero Theorem" which has some stunning sights in it. However, over time, a great deal of mishaps have happened to Gilliam on his films which I think has led to a more jaded attitude over time, leading him for once not to side with a dreamer but against him. That might also have something to do with the movie's inconsistency, as it is impossible to make sense of this world's technology in any meaningful way. And to add to that is how weird a lead Christoph Waltz makes(which might also be the point), upstaged as he is whenever Matt Damon puts in an appearance.
It is very well developed story which will captivate the fans, but I am not sure for the others who are not familiar with Gilliam's style. The character of Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), an eccentric programmer who refers to himself in plurals, and who is assigned to "crunch entities" for a company named Mancom, is definitely to be remembered by anyone watching this work of art. Amazing ability of Waltz to express his character's existential angst suffering, while constantly waiting for a mysterious phone call which will bring him happiness or the answers he seeks, should be seen to be believed. Everything in this surreal world which still has recognizable masked elements of our own society, has some sort of wider satire hidden inside. Requesting a psych evaluation, three company doctors determine that Qohen is physically healthy, but request he have therapy from Dr Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), an AI therapist designed to provide mental evaluation. The obsession of the main character to meet with "Management" (Matt Damon) from which he expects solutions, makes Qohen to attend a party held by his supervisor, Joby (David Thewlis). Stumbling into an empty room, Qohen finds Management and requests to work from home, as he would be more productive and would no longer risk missing his call, and Management decides to give him an unique opportunity without missing to note that Qohen is "quite insane."
Produced in only one year, this was one of the shortest time the director ever needed because usually takes him three years to deliver the final product. Done in the Romanian capital Bucharest, the budget was very low because the crew and Romanians worked very hard for less pay (and they're still very skilled). People would be brought for the day and back out again, and that was quite a task for the director and the others surrounding him. It was not easy for them to produce such a film in the current industry climate, and to still achieve visually brilliant results but resourceful Gilliam was very clever and took advantage of his friends who work for scale... plus, working in Romania he managed to get a bigger bang for his buck. Lovely fantasy!
Starring Christoph Waltz as a hyper-intelligent and existentially tormented man in a seemingly utopian future, The Zero Theorem tells the tale of an attempt to decipher the meaning of life, or lack thereof, in purely scientific terms. Waltz is magnificent and unnerving in his role, always referring to himself in plurals and over-analyzing everything that is told to him in his daily interaction, whether with other humans or artificially intelligent beings.
As he begins to obsessively work on the theorem of life, or "The Zero Theorem," the lines between reality and cyber-reality begin to blur in a crazed and elusive manner, all while presenting deeply philosophical concepts such as the importance of life, love, and beauty.
The Zero Theorem, however, is never quite interested in answering these questions, but rather idealizing them in an enthrallingly bizarre manner. This is a film with remarkably absorbing ideologies that create a beautiful and ponderous journey through the human experience, making it insightfully unforgettable.
Still, this is a Gilliam film so expect sometimes the movie to be truly impenetrable, albeit always engaging on a visual level.
While I always appreciate Terry Gilliam's style, I can't help but wonder if this refreshingly original story deserves a more restrained hand. I love the characters, as well as the interesting angle on the meaning-of-life discussion. This has the potential to be something very very special, but it misses the mark. I think Gilliam's zaniness and manic-ness may have gotten in the way in this case. Something a bit more understated may have assisted this fascinating, if slightly offbeat script.