The Zero Theorem


The Zero Theorem

(Terry Gilliam, 2013)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

Summary
: Another refreshing blast of innovation and off-the-wall characters keep Terry Gilliam's latest offering both fresh and beguiling.




Going into a Terry Gilliam film is like being invited to a massive party where you only know the person who invited you. You know that your quirky pal Gilliam will be hosting something off the wall, something challenging and beautiful. It'll probably include some satire on bureaucracy and perhaps a dwarf. You know that your headache won't just come the morning after; it starts during the trip. Consider this 'Fear and Loathing in Brazil with Twelve Monkeys'.

The central plot could well be Gilliam's loosest yet - a computer hacking mastermind (Tarantino favourite Christoph Waltz) functions as a sort of drone, his emotion suppressed to a point that he considers himself just like his co-workers. He even refers to himself as "we" rather than "I". His individuality morphed into cold duality years ago. While this doesn't make him the cheeriest guy around, it does make him excellent at his job - trying to crunch millions of numbers in order to crack the computer code of human existence.



His boss (David Thewlis) recommends him to the Orwellian company's director (Matt Damon) as the best man for the job of essentially unlocking the secret to life itself - the theorem that everything returns to nothing. But as a black hole opens up underneath our hero, he still clings on to the hope that he will get a phone call from a higher power telling him what to do. He even lives in a derelict church.

Complicating things are distractions from a sexually charged love interest (Melanie Thierry), a computerised psychotherapist (Tilda Swinton) and rebellious teenager (Lucas Hedges), all of whom force him to examine his blind faith in not only God, but science too.



What's really interesting about Gilliam's adaptation of first time screenwriter Pat Rushin's story is that we are on a par with the central character, struggling to understand it all as he does. Its central character is really a tragic one - a man living his life without actually living it, focussed only on the return from something to nothing. Gilliam doesn't afford us any comforts and trusts his audience to chip in with their own answers to some of his burning questions.

How Gilliam can continue to make films that are so lifelike and organic but also grotesquely manipulated is a testament to his vision. This is a man who instead of looking at a painting is more focussed on the frame that contains it, plotting a way of cracking it open to let the colours bleed out and wash over the shoes of the audience. What's left hanging on the wall may look like a mess, but Gilliam brought you closer to the work itself.

Perplexing and invigorating, 'The Zero Theorem' works wonders.

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