Zero Theorem reviews (continued)
I saw it back in March, here's my review, sorry for the delay.

The story of The Zero Theorem began with Pat Rushin, a Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Central Florida who also does some writing of his own, a collection of Rushin's short stories called Puzzling Through the News was published in 1991, one of the stories in the book was called The Call, about a man wanting to find out if his life has any meaning. Rushin expanded the story into a screenplay on the suggestion of a friend, which caught the attention of legendary Hollywood producer Richard D. Zanuck and his son Dean, they got help from French producer Nicholas Chartier, who won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker (2008). The project landed on Terry Gilliam's desk in 2008, shortly after the troubled production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), back then Billy Bob Thornton was attached to star, by 2009 the project had stalled when Thornton dropped out. Gilliam turned his attention to short films and an opera, but in Spring 2012, after Gilliam's attempt at getting The Man Who Killed Don Quixote up and running again had floundered once again, he needed to film something out of desperation, producer Chartier offered him The Zero Theorem again, however they only had a fraction of the money needed and only 37 days to film it. That could have been a recipe for disaster for Gilliam, however he turned it into a good thing, he was blessed with being able to get a stellar cast together, most of them working for next to nothing, and Gilliam turns The Zero Theorem, which could have been a sparse, empty film into an entertaining and satirical sci-fi film, which is part future dystopia and part chamber piece, it's also shows what a good director of actors Gilliam is too.

Set somewhere in the not too distant future, where London has been overwhelmed with video billboards and neon lighting, computer genius Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) lives an eccentric and almost reclusive life inside a burnt out church he bought in an auction. He's been waiting most of his life for a phone call from someone who will tell him the meaning of life, but meanwhile he's working for a company called Mancom, which seems to be gathering data on people, and all the workers are being watched by the Management (Matt Damon). Qohen asks his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) if he can work from home, and the Management finds a use for Qohen, asking if he can solve a mathematical formula known as The Zero Theorem, a mathematical formula, which shows that life has no purpose. Qohen begins work from home, and he spends weeks, maybe months, trying to work out this formula, but it nearly drives him insane. He is distracted a lot, a couple of times by Joby, then by a seductive woman called Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), who Qohen met at a wild party and who has her own online sex website, then by the Management's son Bob (Lucas Hedges), a foul-mouthed teenager who is a computer whiz. Oh, and Qohen seeks online psychiatric help from Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), who doesn't seem to be much help, and more of a pop-up hindrance for Qohen. But, Qohen finds solace in Bainsley's online sex website, which he can access via a virtual reality suit.

If Gilliam's Brazil (1985) is set "Somewhere in the 20th Century", then The Zero Theorem is definitely set "Somewhere in the 21st Century", picking up on all the technologies we use today. One party has everyone wired up to their iPhones or iPads, the streets are filled with electronic billboards advertising "Occupy Wall Street" and "The Church of Batman the Redeemer", while Smart cars whiz around the streets. For a film billed as a sci-fi drama, there is a lot of little oddities and hilarious little details on display in the film. For example, Waltz's Qohen lives in a church, his kitchen sink is the font, complete with washing up bowl inside!! Tongue But, on the surface, it's a statement on the way technology is possibly going to go, and how we take technology for granted and how it rules our lives these days, but there's a deeper level to it, in this ever changing world, does life still have meaning? Either way, Gilliam makes a visual feast here, and you can't believe he did it for as cheap he did. $8.5 million to be exact, cheaper than Tideland (2005) was, but it was filmed in Bucharest, Romania, which is the cheapest place to make films in Europe right now, he makes it look like it was made for more!! But, Gilliam can find ways to make scenery look brilliant on film, even when he doesn't have a lot of money to play with, here he used post-production to create the amusing, intrusive adverts.

Gilliam got together a brilliant team behind the camera to help bring this future dystopia to life, beginning with Gilliam's trusted cinematographer Nicola Pecorini, who has worked with Gilliam on every film, in some form or other, since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). Pecorini makes great use of wide-angle lenses to capture as much in the frame as possible, and there's a lot of see-sawing camera action, and even some of the liquid lighting that Pecorini put to good use in Fear and Loathing. For a dark vision of the future, it's certainly a very colourful one, brought to vivid life by production designer Dave Warren, who did the art direction and concept art for Doctor Parnassus, creating some very vivid sets and props, all with a lot of colour on display, mostly bright colours, described as "Bubblegum Dystopia", there is more colour in this film than there was in Gilliam's other sci-fi offerings. Another striking thing about the film are the other-worldly costumes created by Carlo Poggioli, who worked with Gilliam on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and The Brothers Grimm (2005), Poggioli had next to nothing to work with, but after finding a Chinese market on the outskirts of Bucharest that sold materials with weird patterns on, Poggioli got to work, with some made from tea towels and shower curtains. This shows that even with next to nothing, once you use a little imagination, you can make wonders.

For the cast, Gilliam got lucky. You could say he hit the jackpot with getting Christoph Waltz for Qohen Leth, his Oscar winning turns in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012) showed off his charismatic, quirky talents. Here, Gilliam gives Waltz the starring role, and Waltz delivers an eccentric and broken man, driven to insanity by his need to know about whether life has meaning. Bald as a coot, he looks soulless and out of place in this mad, loud world, and Waltz has fun in the part, but it proves he can carry a film, literally in this case, as he's in every scene. Gilliam chose French actress Mélanie Thierry for Bainsley, over countless American actresses who wanted the part, Thierry adds a femme fatale quality to the mix of the film, someone who Qohen can either trust or not. Thierry brings mystery and eroticism to the role, and it won't be her last you'll see of Thierry after this film. David Thewlis has fun channeling Eric Idle as Qohen's annoying supervisor Joby, who can never get Qohen's name right, but seems to take a shine to him. Thewlis and Gilliam should make more together, but one stand out is Lucas Hedges as Bob, the computer whiz son of the Management, Gilliam cast Hedges after seeing him in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), and Bob is a very complex character, on the surface a cocky little so-and-so, but underneath, so lonely because he's been doing computer stuff for years, and hasn't had a life with other kids his age, his life has been isolated, so he finds a kindred spirit with Qohen, and vice versa. Matt Damon adds a sense of mystery for his quick cameo as the Management, wearing magnificent suits each time around. Sanjeev Bhaskar, Peter Stormare and Ben Whishaw all make an amusing little cameo as a trio of doctors analyzing Qohen, while Tilda Swinton adds a weird and wonderful cameo as Scottish shrink Dr. Shrink-Rom, who even gets to do a bonkers rap!! Big Grin

It's always great to see Gilliam make films, and here, he's taken Rushin's story and made it his own, taking on the big questions, and the big corporations who use technologies to spy on us. One example in the film is a scene which shows a simple act of kindness and caring, and someone high up has it manipulated it to look like the act of a predator. It could be seen as a parable on what the internet can do to people, and how technology can either help make our lives better or ruin our lives. It shows what Gilliam can do with limited money and resources, showing he can make great pieces of film and still have the power to entertain audiences. Nobody does films like him, he has a unique, off-kilter vision, and while some would have you believe that he's an insurance liability, who is a walking disaster area. What happened on Don Quixote and Doctor Parnassus could have killed his career, but it didn't, he picked himself up, brushed himself off and just kept going. Gilliam won't give up making films, he still wants to do Don Quixote, and he plans to get it made this autumn, plus he still has other great unmade films that still come around, like Good Omens and The Defective Detective. But, for now, he seems to have rejuvenated himself with The Zero Theorem, it could have been made by any other director, but Gilliam adds his own special stamp to it. People might be sniffy towards it now, but wait 20-30 years, it'll speak about the world being ruled by technology and annoying video adverts, like Brazil in 1985 spoke of the world being full of bureaucracy, terrorism and intrusive surveillance. Gilliam was right on the mark there...

Messages In This Thread
Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 09-21-2013, 02:08 AM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by Packer - 09-21-2013, 09:20 AM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 09-27-2013, 04:07 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 09-30-2013, 01:27 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 10-12-2013, 04:28 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 10-15-2013, 04:16 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by Packer - 12-28-2013, 02:54 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 03-02-2014, 05:01 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 03-12-2014, 04:32 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 03-16-2014, 12:01 AM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 06-03-2014, 08:24 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by Donald McKinney - 07-03-2014, 09:35 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 07-21-2014, 02:33 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 09-12-2014, 07:39 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by Packer - 09-18-2014, 12:23 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 10-03-2014, 04:11 PM
RE: Zero Theorem reviews (continued) - by cclark - 01-22-2015, 11:38 PM

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