THE ZERO THEOREM Trailer is Weird and Wonderful
Director Terry Gilliam has a successful track record of surreal and engrossing films, many with a dystopian tone. Two of his notable films, 1985’s Brazil and 1995’s 12 Monkeys, take place in a world of dystrophic non-functionality. His new film, The Zero Theorem, is the third in Gilliam’s now-trilogy of dystopian films with a satire bite. Starring two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) as computer genius Qohen Leth, The Zero Theorem follows Leth as he seeks to answer the age-old question: What is the meaning of life? He decides to find the answer via a computer formula, hearkening to films like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi in its intensely surreal portrayal of a dystrophic world, where numbers and formulas provide the only objective truth known to mankind.
As the film’s trailer shows, the world in The Zero Theorem is very much like the estimations of George Orwell, who predicted a domineering corporate world that suppressed freedom. The trailer does a nice job of showcasing the world’s contrasting elements. The outdoor city shots resemble the lit-up vibe of Tokyo, with advertisements reminding citizens that “Everyone’s getting rich, except you.” Using class structure as motivation to get citizens working at unreasonable rates is a theme in the world of The Zero Theorem. Ads depicting insufficiencies seem as common throughout the city as a metal roof. What appears most interesting is how the eccentric, bald-headed Qohen Leth will interact with it.
Waltz easily shows throughout the trailer why he is such an accomplished character actor, portraying eccentric technical genius Qohen Leth with an engrossing, idiosyncratic quality. As robotic vocals repeat “0 must equal 100%” in the background, we see Leth go on a variety of journeys – from experiencing a mind trip within a lush ocean setting with femme fatale Bainsley (played by Mélanie Thierry of Babylon A.D. notoriety) to interacting with cold-stone superiors that resemble harsh dictators in their authoritative tone. Will Leth discover the formula to the meaning of life? Will it be something beyond a formula that teaches him this? These questions and many others will be answered in Terry Gilliam’s fascinating The Zero Theorem.
In addition to Waltz and Thierry, The Zero Theorem features a strong supporting cast that includes Matt Damon as management, Tilda Swinton as Dr Shrink-Rom and appearances by actors like Robin Williams in “street commercials,” which presumably are similar to the ads within the trailer motivating people to “get rich.” Screenwriter Pat Rushin was inspired by the book of Ecclesiastes to write the film, specifically the book’s delving into existence and the meaning of life. After premiering at the 70th Venice International Film Festival in September 2013, The Zero Theorem has seen a limited release so far; it should become more available throughout the year, especially since there are many admirers of Gilliam’s work.