The Zero Theorem looks like vintage Terry Gilliam, a movie where he creates a world that is simultaneously bright and dark and outlandishly fantastic, yet troublingly familiar. Part of what makes Brazil so unsettling are the similarities to that world and all too many our daily lives (I may as well work in that office). With the film set to premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in a few weeks, we’re getting more and more looks at what it actually contains. Following hot on the heels of a few images that hit the airwaves yesterday, we get a look at the first poster for The Zero Theorem, as well as a statement from Gilliam himself on the film, including his intentions, what he hopes to achieve, and a few things we absolutely will not see.
From the look of this poster, we’re in for a damn fine time. There’s a man, presumably star Christoph Waltz, hunched over a computer, wearing what appears to be some sort of full body pajamas, or maybe a wetsuit. Unlike most PJs, or wetsuits for that matter, this one has a big chord running out of the top of his head. It definitely looks like someone is monitoring his thoughts or brainwaves, which provides a nice thematic hint. Bureaucracy run amok is one of Gilliam’s favorite targets, and from what we know, and from the photos and leaked trailers we’ve seen thus far, The Zero Theorem will fit nicely into that family of films.
The story follows Qohen Leth (Waltz), a brilliant hermit of a computer genius. Full of a general sort of existential dread, he is working on a formula to devise the meaning of life. The only problem is, the omnipresent, minutely bureaucratized government interrupts, blocks, and redirects him every chance they get. And in true Gilliam fashion, there’s also a beautiful, seductive woman to distract him and complicate matters, in this case Bainsley (Melanie Thierry)
Never one to buy into momentary trends in cinema, Gilliam isn’t looking to jump on any movie bandwagons, and makes it clear in a new statement what will and what won’t be in The Zero Theorem. Under normal circumstances, I’d break this up, or paraphrase some of this, but we’re talking about Terry Freakin’ Gilliam here, so I’ll let the madman tell it in his own words.
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.
Not that I have a problem with zombies, aliens, or superheroes, but I didn’t particularly expect to see any of those elements in this movie anyway. This is, however, exactly the kind of story that I love to see Gilliam tell; the tale of a lone individual, struggling against ubiquitous odds and a backwards society, trying to give his own life a purpose. That’s Brazil, that’s Twelve Monkeys, Time Bandits, The Fisher King, and basically all of his best films, beautiful, strange, and defiant.
I absolutely can’t wait for The Zero Theorem. There’s no word when we may see a US release, but I’m hopeful that the film will sneak in under the wire at arrive in 2013. In addition to Waltz and Thierry, the cast also includes Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, David Thewlis, and Peter Stormare.