The Zero Theorem Reviews

  • Aug 04, 2020

    Nice acting, interesting world(it remember me Brasil) but the story is confusing and inconclusive.

    Nice acting, interesting world(it remember me Brasil) but the story is confusing and inconclusive.

  • May 03, 2020

    The Zero Theorem saw Terry Gilliam return to science fiction for the first time since 12 Monkeys in 1995. Unlike 12 Monkeys, it was met with mixed reviews; Gilliam later noted that only one professional reviewer realised that the film is a tragedy, not a comedy. I find that surprising, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing: once you know what Gilliam was trying to achieve however, the film's purpose becomes much clearer. The screenplay by Pat Rushin tells the story of Christoph Waltz's reclusive computer programmer Qohen Leth as he is assigned to solve the titular Zero Theorem, which he is told will reveal the meaning of existence. Leth is very much a tragic figure: lonely, depressive and delusional, he is socially inept, suffers from anhedonia and has a disconcerting habit of referring to himself in the third person. Over the course of the film, he seems to find love in the eccentric form of Bainsley, but she turns out to be a stripper paid by the hour to lift his spirits. The crowning tragedy of the film comes when he realises with horror that the Zero Theorem will reveal that life is meaningless by proving that the universe will end with the Big Crunch. Leth's boss the Management – who employed Leth to solve the theorem because he hopes to profit from the chaos that it represents – sums up the film's central message when he explains that because Leth had faith that the phone call he has been waiting for will reveal the meaning of his life, he has spent a meaningless life waiting for that phone call. The problem with The Zero Theorem is perhaps that Gilliam's style swamps Rushin's intention. It shares the aesthetic characteristic of Gilliam: the future city in which Leth lives looks like a hybrid of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The mise-en-scène blends the Bucharest location filming with cartoonish sets, a blend of the futuristic and the archaic reminiscent of Brazil (Leth lives in an old church), brightly coloured and often weird props, grotesque characters such as the clones, and outlandish costumes. Leth's disability hearing involves him lying on a couch in his underwear whilst three sinister looking doctors first address him from behind a desk and then prod and poke at him with latex-gloved fingers. Typically for Gilliam, the cameras are in constant motion, and there is an emphasis on physical and visual stimuli rendered partly as slapstick, thus for example when Leth is choking on an olive, only for him to expel it and for it to be subsequently snatched up by a mouse. For fans of Gilliam's work (and I am one) this surreal approach is all part of the fun, but it does make it easy to understand why some critics mistook the film for a comedy with no jokes. But if Gilliam's indulgence works against him on this occasion, he still gets fine work from his cast members. Christoph Waltz injects real heart into the character of Leth, making him a figure of sympathy: this is not generally a film that lends itself to naturalistic performances, but Waltz manages to be believable in the role whilst still providing the theatricality that the film demands. The same is true of Mélanie Thierry, who plays Bainsley as an extrovert seductress/femme fatale, until her final scene with Leth when she suddenly exhibits emotion that seems genuine. Matt Damon's deadpan Management also works well, his insistence that he is neither God nor the Devil but just a man grounding the film in reality just in time for the enigmatic finale to leave it firmly behind. In the acting stakes, only an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton disappoints with an over-the-top turn as Dr Shrink-ROM. Gilliam fans can expect certain stylistic traits from his work: most of those are present in The Zero Theorem, but on this occasion they perhaps detract from the story his film is trying to tell. But if you can see past the colourful, eccentric trappings and deduce what he's trying to say, the message is suitably thought-provoking.

    The Zero Theorem saw Terry Gilliam return to science fiction for the first time since 12 Monkeys in 1995. Unlike 12 Monkeys, it was met with mixed reviews; Gilliam later noted that only one professional reviewer realised that the film is a tragedy, not a comedy. I find that surprising, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing: once you know what Gilliam was trying to achieve however, the film's purpose becomes much clearer. The screenplay by Pat Rushin tells the story of Christoph Waltz's reclusive computer programmer Qohen Leth as he is assigned to solve the titular Zero Theorem, which he is told will reveal the meaning of existence. Leth is very much a tragic figure: lonely, depressive and delusional, he is socially inept, suffers from anhedonia and has a disconcerting habit of referring to himself in the third person. Over the course of the film, he seems to find love in the eccentric form of Bainsley, but she turns out to be a stripper paid by the hour to lift his spirits. The crowning tragedy of the film comes when he realises with horror that the Zero Theorem will reveal that life is meaningless by proving that the universe will end with the Big Crunch. Leth's boss the Management – who employed Leth to solve the theorem because he hopes to profit from the chaos that it represents – sums up the film's central message when he explains that because Leth had faith that the phone call he has been waiting for will reveal the meaning of his life, he has spent a meaningless life waiting for that phone call. The problem with The Zero Theorem is perhaps that Gilliam's style swamps Rushin's intention. It shares the aesthetic characteristic of Gilliam: the future city in which Leth lives looks like a hybrid of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The mise-en-scène blends the Bucharest location filming with cartoonish sets, a blend of the futuristic and the archaic reminiscent of Brazil (Leth lives in an old church), brightly coloured and often weird props, grotesque characters such as the clones, and outlandish costumes. Leth's disability hearing involves him lying on a couch in his underwear whilst three sinister looking doctors first address him from behind a desk and then prod and poke at him with latex-gloved fingers. Typically for Gilliam, the cameras are in constant motion, and there is an emphasis on physical and visual stimuli rendered partly as slapstick, thus for example when Leth is choking on an olive, only for him to expel it and for it to be subsequently snatched up by a mouse. For fans of Gilliam's work (and I am one) this surreal approach is all part of the fun, but it does make it easy to understand why some critics mistook the film for a comedy with no jokes. But if Gilliam's indulgence works against him on this occasion, he still gets fine work from his cast members. Christoph Waltz injects real heart into the character of Leth, making him a figure of sympathy: this is not generally a film that lends itself to naturalistic performances, but Waltz manages to be believable in the role whilst still providing the theatricality that the film demands. The same is true of Mélanie Thierry, who plays Bainsley as an extrovert seductress/femme fatale, until her final scene with Leth when she suddenly exhibits emotion that seems genuine. Matt Damon's deadpan Management also works well, his insistence that he is neither God nor the Devil but just a man grounding the film in reality just in time for the enigmatic finale to leave it firmly behind. In the acting stakes, only an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton disappoints with an over-the-top turn as Dr Shrink-ROM. Gilliam fans can expect certain stylistic traits from his work: most of those are present in The Zero Theorem, but on this occasion they perhaps detract from the story his film is trying to tell. But if you can see past the colourful, eccentric trappings and deduce what he's trying to say, the message is suitably thought-provoking.

  • Apr 01, 2020

    Thought it's relatability weird satire could get out some good laughs, The Zero Theorem's style may prove too far off for even Terry Gilliam's most devoted fans.

    Thought it's relatability weird satire could get out some good laughs, The Zero Theorem's style may prove too far off for even Terry Gilliam's most devoted fans.

  • Nov 05, 2019

    This is no "Brazil" for sure, but great visual effects, direction and worldbuilding, along with a fine performance from Waltz, can keep this movie away from nothingness.

    This is no "Brazil" for sure, but great visual effects, direction and worldbuilding, along with a fine performance from Waltz, can keep this movie away from nothingness.

  • Oct 28, 2019

    I love this film. It fits right up there with Brazil and 12 Monkeys for me. Probably in 3rd place of the 3, but above many others. In a few years it might even be at #2 of those 3 for me.

    I love this film. It fits right up there with Brazil and 12 Monkeys for me. Probably in 3rd place of the 3, but above many others. In a few years it might even be at #2 of those 3 for me.

  • Sep 14, 2019

    Everything you want in a Sci-Fi and expect from a director like Gilliam.

    Everything you want in a Sci-Fi and expect from a director like Gilliam.

  • Oct 30, 2018

    Interesting, how often are such self recognition issues presented?

    Interesting, how often are such self recognition issues presented?

  • Sep 03, 2018

    OK Terry Gilliam effort, though it seems a bit tired and the existential angst is a bit too "on the nose". Still, worth a watch for fans of the director.

    OK Terry Gilliam effort, though it seems a bit tired and the existential angst is a bit too "on the nose". Still, worth a watch for fans of the director.

  • Jul 29, 2018

    And entertaining and quirky view on the Human Condition. Saw lots of confused faces watching the film, but I loved every minute. Gilliam at his best!

    And entertaining and quirky view on the Human Condition. Saw lots of confused faces watching the film, but I loved every minute. Gilliam at his best!

  • Todd S Super Reviewer
    Feb 05, 2018

    When you watch a Terry Gilliam film, you should expect for there to be a fair amount of weirdness. When you add Science Fiction to the mix, there is the possibility that anything can happen. With this in mind, I was really excited to see The Zero Theorem, and what I got was simply one of the worst films I have ever seen! Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a computer genius, who has been assigned by Management to discover the meaning of life. He does this alone in an old abandoned church. This movie made absolutely no sense to the point where I don't even know how the hell to describe it in any way that would do it justice. Waltz is running around like a madman the entire time, talking so fast, with that accent, that he's impossible to understand. He meets Tilda Swinton at some type of party, and she keeps showing up for some unknown reason, personally I just think it's because she's weird and she likes being in weird movies. Waltz has all these odd computer programs, strange characters he interacts with and talks non-sense with, all in a film that moves faster than his internet connection. I really just didn't understand a thing that was going on and watching it a number of times or doing any amount of any drug in the world wouldn't change that. How is a solitary man playing strange computer games supposed to discover the meaning of life? Who are all these people who keep showing up? What in the hell are they talking about, and what does anything have to do with anything? I'm not entirely sure that another person on this planet besides Terry Gilliam understands what was going on in this film. All I know is that no one should have ever been exposed to whatever this nightmare was intended to be.

    When you watch a Terry Gilliam film, you should expect for there to be a fair amount of weirdness. When you add Science Fiction to the mix, there is the possibility that anything can happen. With this in mind, I was really excited to see The Zero Theorem, and what I got was simply one of the worst films I have ever seen! Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a computer genius, who has been assigned by Management to discover the meaning of life. He does this alone in an old abandoned church. This movie made absolutely no sense to the point where I don't even know how the hell to describe it in any way that would do it justice. Waltz is running around like a madman the entire time, talking so fast, with that accent, that he's impossible to understand. He meets Tilda Swinton at some type of party, and she keeps showing up for some unknown reason, personally I just think it's because she's weird and she likes being in weird movies. Waltz has all these odd computer programs, strange characters he interacts with and talks non-sense with, all in a film that moves faster than his internet connection. I really just didn't understand a thing that was going on and watching it a number of times or doing any amount of any drug in the world wouldn't change that. How is a solitary man playing strange computer games supposed to discover the meaning of life? Who are all these people who keep showing up? What in the hell are they talking about, and what does anything have to do with anything? I'm not entirely sure that another person on this planet besides Terry Gilliam understands what was going on in this film. All I know is that no one should have ever been exposed to whatever this nightmare was intended to be.