September 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Zero Theorem

So, last week I had the opportunity to see Terry Gilliam's latest feature on the big screen. Before going any further, I have to recommend that whenever you have the opportunity to see a Gilliam feature in a theater, you should jump at it. Even when he is not at the top of his game, his films are pretty fascinating, either thematically or visually. No matter whether you like it or not, you will have a reaction to it, even if your reaction does not reveal itself in logical fashion. With The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam has crafted a film that is as newly Gilliam as it is reminiscent of his past successes. To that end, I enjoyed this, even as I do not love it.

The Zero Theorem centers on Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), a quirky workaday fellow who works as a number cruncher for some faceless corporation. The corporation applauds the individual, while always keeping an eye on them with obvious big brother cameras focusing on them. Qohen is convinced he is dying and wishes to get approval to work from home to cut down on expense, travel, and down time. After being jerked around by the powers that be, he gets the go ahead. Still firmly believing he is dying, gets his cavernous home set up so that he can continue crunching the numbers while waiting for his call.

Along with the OK to work from home, he is assigned to work on the titular Zero Theorem, also referred to as Zip-T. What is it exactly? Well, it is a theorem whose goal is to prove existence is meaningless. It is an interesting thing to ponder, much less be forced to try and prove. While he is working the numbers, he is visited by Bainsley, a sexy pseudo-prostitute with whom Qohen develops affection for. There is also the bosses kid, who goes by and calls everyone else Bob.

It is a rather fascinating movie to watch play out. Even while I did not feel completely involved and kept at a distance, the movie held my attention at all turns. It was interesting to watch Waltz play this quirky, introverted, odd ball of character and how he slowly changes with exposure to both Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) and Bob. They sort of wake him up from the worker bee type existence. Pair that with Terry Gilliam's gift for visuals and you have a movie that gives you a lot to work with.

The Zero Theorem is a movie I suspect will grow and reveal more with repeat viewings, but as it stands, would seem to be an interesting companion piece to Brazil. I feel as if both could be a part of the same universe, just looked at from different perspectives based on the thoughts and feelings of the central character. Gilliam has this way of visualizing space and technology and how they interact, distract, control, entertain, and interfere with our lives that is pretty fascinating. Watch how he combines the tech with basic issues of human interaction.


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