Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem Not For First Timers – A Review



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A Terry Gilliam film not for the uninitiated.

Way back when I was a mere undergrad I wrote a fifteen page paper on the films of Terry Gilliam. This led up to Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, which was his newest film at the time. A few year later I wrote another 15 page paper on the man. This was still before the release of his follow up, The Brothers Grimm. So yes, I am very well versed in the works of Mr. Gilliam, and I have loved them all to some level or another.

His latest, The Zero Theorem is his first film in nearly five years; following The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the last film of Heath Ledger. Zero stars the amazing Christoph Waltz, Qohen Leth, as an anti social computer hacker who has been given one job. One very important job: prove the nothingness that is the importance of human existence.

Beyond the impossibility of the job, Leth, faces two major distractions. The first is Bainsley (Melanie Thierry), a fancy futuristic prostitute who seems to actually like Leth, though he seems incapably of returning such feelings. The other is Bob, Lucas Hedges, a young teenager who appears to have Leth’s best interests at heart, but in this film, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is as it seems.

Zero Theorem follows in the steps of Brazil and 12 Monkeys, however, it’s much, much stranger. It’s like those two films with a little Tideland (you can read my review for that film here. ) thrown in, which is easily Gilliam’s most disturbing film.

Zero Theorem is not a film for those uninitiated with the work of Terrry Gilliam. If every Gilliam film could be ranked on a level of it’s Gilliam-ness from 1 to 10, Zero easily comes in at an eleven. This is a very, VERY strange film. It’s easily his strangest film to date. Yes, it’s even stranger than Tideland. It’s not as disturbing as Tideland , those it is definitely stranger.

It’s hard to explain how truly bizarre this film is without ruining it. However, I can tell you that when you watch you will be left quite perplexed as the credits roll, and for several days after. It’s been a few hours since I watched it, and I’m still trying to process everything that I just saw.

That doesn’t make it a bad film, far from it. However, it’s just not a film for everyone. However, that is something Gilliam has been dealing with since the beginning of his career.

Helping caring you through this strange film is the brilliant performance by Waltz. This is a character very much unlike what you’ve seen from him in Tarantino films. In Tarantino films he plays very strong, charismatic characters, which is just about the exact opposite of what you get here. Qohen Leth is a shy, introverted, unsure character. Is not comfortable around people, either in crowds or in one-on-one scenarios. Leth seems most comfortable in front of his computer, getting his work done. Even when given a chance to speak with Management (a great cameo by Matt Damon) he seems unable to articulate exactly what it is he wants and needs. Nonetheless, Management sees the importance in this strange little man, because despite a complete lack of social skills, he is really good at what he does, and that’s obviously all that Management really cares about.

If you’re a Gilliam fan, I certainly recommend watching The Zero Theorem. If you have never seen one of his films, but this one peeked your interest, please watching a few of his other films first so you have some meager glimpse of an idea of what you’re getting yourself in for.


Director: Terry Gilliam
Notable Cast: Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon, David Thewlis, Melanie Thierry, Lucas Hedges and Tilda Swinton
Writer:Pat Rushin

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