View Full Version : The Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam)

Henry Gale
07-18-2014, 05:51 PM

IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2333804/)

Henry Gale
07-18-2014, 06:23 PM
The world is always a better place with one more, creatively uncorrupted Gilliam film existing in it, particularly one that has the capacity of looking and feeling so much like the best of his past sci-fi work, so it's a shame when this doesn't ultimately fulfill the prospects, stature and potential his similar efforts would leave you hoping it could by association. It just doesn't have the weight or extraordinary dream-like feel and heightened but still universally tangible emotions flowing through it to feel like it properly can stand beside the Brazils, 12 Monkeys', Time Banditses, Baron Munchausens or even Imaginariums of his past.

The film, when it thrives, does so on the pure natural visual wonder and the effortless craft Gilliam could probably weave into an instruction manual in his sleep. The look and feel of the movie, in superficial terms at least, does so much of the storytelling in and of itself, with certain sequences seemingly content with just gliding by on how they feel rather than what they want to mean. And then there are others that pack every corner with an extra bit of mythology or endless provocative satirical flourishes that could completely polarize or the viewer's fresh view of the world of the film if they happen to catch them, or maybe just allow their quick interest in them to later guide them to unrealized dead ends. If those pieces aren't noticed, they're simply another thread in the tapestry, for better or worse for both the filmmakers and the audience.

It's just on the cusp of being able to articulate its swirling array of enticing themes and timeless but modern zeitgeist-y angst into something cohesive and compelling, but it just finds itself as stagnant and secluded from evolving as its protagonist. It never really has that moment where it clicks into being something truly enchanting or even consistently gratifying enough in a visceral way to entertain even if it can't be sufficient as an intellectually inspiring one. All I was left to marvel at after a while was its production design and Melanie Thierry.

Waltz's character is built almost as the most completely empty lead character possible, which even for an actor of his talents is a difficult thing to find an relatable emotional entry point to. He's basically a robot burdened with human parts, and he makes it his entire purpose to shrug off any and every piece of the world around him that doesn't concern his key task of proving the solution to the titular equation of the film, without the script ever really finding a way for him to break free from that in ways the story would seemingly want to design an arc to let him slowly find his way towards a revelation of sorts instead of keeping him in relatively the same place from the beginning until the end.

It's a shame that a movie so content on (broadly and almost half-heartledly) dissecting the cosmic meaninglessness and futility of all things can only ultimately surmise the initial point, even if that kinda is its point.

Should a story about the ephemeral nature of life and the fleetingness of the daily cycles and others ways we conduct ourselves in it be see as a success for basically hammering that point in as many ways as it can before allowing its overall arc to amount to nothing?

The problem is, Gilliam is still too talented and confident as an artist to ever feel like he can only do what he does here, and it's frustrating because his past work lets you know just how capable he is as a storyteller to crack something like this and make it truly transcendent. But he also never allows it to approach anything boring (though even with its concise runtime it veers towards meandering at certain points in the middle third), which almost makes it more frustrating because it's so good at distracting you from what you might find disappointing with it. But once the lights go up, you're then confronted with not being quite sure how much he really dug into the version of the story he (or you) wanted to behold below the surface the final product cements. Like the view of life depicted in the film, it's all an illusion, but any maybe sometimes you just have to get out of your own head and be at peace with what's in front of you. Maybe the easy answer is that realistically everything is much easier that way, but cinema should never need to be bound to operate on those sort of realistic terms, especially not with Gilliam.

07-27-2014, 08:39 PM
A Gilliam winner, as poralizing and uncompromising as only his movies can be. I took as a spin on Brazil - what if the protagonist of that movie was working actively with the oppressors all the way - although that's more likely not how the concept originated.

I don't think I'd ever noticed Mélanie Thierry before. She's smoking hot.

09-25-2014, 07:46 PM
I think I almost, alllmost liked it. I've been thinking about it all day, comparing it to his other two Orwellian works, and I think I know what my problem is with it, despite being utterly delighted by virtually every single shot I saw. Perhaps Gilliam's way of exploring the themes of his films is so dense and visual-based that it simply needs an active plot to give it some agency, a la Brazil's escape fantasy or 12 Monkey's anti-terrorism. Otherwise, it's just a film that philosophizes and has its protagonist circle around and around his own dysfunction without progressing his character, only delaying the part where it's literally explained to him by someone else, which makes the whole thing feels so repetitive and stagnant. The true nature of the equation seems like a pretty weak mystery to hang the third act on, and I can't help suspecting that it would work a lot better as a set up than a conclusion.