When Terry Gilliam gets it right, his films are second to none; when he gets it wrong, there are few things more painful to watch. I think that you will all join me in hoping and praying that The Zero Theorem, set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival, will be more along the lines of Brazil and less along the lines of Tideland. With the first poster and an extended statement from Gilliam himself landing today, I think we have reason to be hopeful.
The Zero Theorem stars Christoph Waltz as a computer genius searching for the purpose of existence in a dystopian world. His work is constantly interrupted by Management (Matt Damon) who sends in all sorts of people to distract him from his pursuit of the so-called Zero Theorem. It’s a weird idea, made even weirder when we take at look at the images and clips that have leaked out over the past few months. The mis-en-scene recalls Brazil more than anything, and the thematics (search for meaning, etc.) has much in common with The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. With this first poster, depicting Waltz wired into a computer in his church sanctuary, we are sitting firmly in Terry Gilliam world.
Meanwhile, Gilliam promises us that there will be no superheroes or zombies in this movie – just quirky characters and questions without answers. He says it better than I can paraphrase, so here’s the full statement:
When I made Brazil in 1984, I was trying to paint a picture of the world I thought we were living in then. The Zero Theorem is a glimpse of the world I think we are living in now. Pat Rushin’s script intrigued me with the many existential ideas he had incorporated into his funny, philosophic, and touching tale. For example: What gives meaning to our lives, brings us happiness? Can we ever be alone in our increasingly connected and constricted world? Is that world under control or simply chaotic? We’ve tried to make a film that is honest, funny, beautiful, and surprising; a simple film about a complex modern man waiting for a call to give meaning to his life; about inescapable relationships and the longing for love, full of quirky characters and sparkling performances; raising questions without offering obvious answers. Hopefully, it’s unlike any film you have seen recently; no zombies, no caped crusaders or alien spacecraft. Actually, I might have lied about that last item. Having not worked with a budget this small for several decades, I was forced to work fast and instinctively, pressured only by time and money. We relied on the freedom to spin on a dime, to make outrageous creative leaps. The results surprised even me. I’m proud to have been part of The Zero Theorem.
I’m looking forward to The Zero Theorem for the cast alone. Besides Waltz and Damon, the film stars Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis, Ben Whishaw, Melanie Thierry and Peter Stormare. That cast, combined with Gilliam’s always bizarre outlook on the world, will hopefully raise The Zero Theorem into the pantheon of great films.
You can see the first poster below. What do you think of The Zero Theorem? Does it sound like a winner?