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Zero Theorem, The


Stars: Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedges, Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Peter Stormare

Director: Terry Gilliam

If you have seen such films as Brazil, Time Bandits and Twelve Monkeys?m> then you will know that to expect Terry Gilliam to have directed an ‘ordinary’ movie would be on the level of expecting intellectual subtexts in a ‘Carry On’ comedy.

And Gilliam doesn’t disappoint here with his seriously strange vision of a dystopic future London that serves as the background for the outlandish experiences of sad shaven-headed hacker Christoph Waltz who is assigned by Management (played by Matt Damon with obvious relish in a role requiring him to dress bizarrely) to discover the eponymous Zero Theorem in which “Everything adds up to nothing”.

Much like the film in fact.

The Zero Theorem defies sensible synopsis and, in reality, doesn’t really need it since its impact relies not so much on Pat Rushin’s screenplay as on Gilliam’s hardly linear interpretation of Waltz’s dreamlike experiences working from his home in an abandoned church. His life (and our viewing) is spiced up by sexy fellow employee Melanie Thierry who is given to turning up in a nurse’s outfit and the depressing appearances of his superior played by David Thewlis. And, as seems inevitable these days, Tilda Swinton overacts as a asinine psychiatrist who treats Waltz via a computer screen.

Visually Gilliam’s unique brave new world is a stunning compôte of a city that at times resembles a collection of circus characters set against sentient advertisements. Surreal echoes of ‘Brazil’ in particular make viewing a fascinating experience. I look forward to seeing ‘The Zero Theorem’ again in the sure knowledge that I will find more to enjoy and, who knows, might finally be able to follow the narrative in full.

Alan Frank

USA/Romania/UK 2013. UK Distributor: Sony. Technicolor.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 Mar 2014