THE ZERO THEOREM (2013)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Pat Rushin
Stars: Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis
Qohen is waiting for a phone call which will explain the meaning of his existence. In the meantime, he works for Mancom, crunching numbers, avoiding interactions. This worries Management, who sends in a couple of life-defining characters to distract him a little and perhaps force him to venture outside and live.
Ahh, Gilliam, back to Brazil. The comparisons are there and not really difficult to spot: two men (Qohen and Sam), trying to disconnect from the daily grind, constantly bothered by colourful people. But it wouldn’t do The Zero Theorem any justice to say that the two movies are alike. Sure, they’re both goofy and strangely anachronic but this is where comparisons end. Sam was trying to evade the oppressive, drastic (and indirectly amusing) government, while Qohen is only a victim of his own faith in the universe’s meaning and his place in it. Corporations rule but everyone is happy, saturated with pleasure. It’s Qohen who is the oppressive force of his own universe, refusing to partake, to enjoy living life. Instead, he focuses on being provided the answers to what he should be. That’s a very different path and it’s enjoyable to see him go through it.
What can I say about the actors that you don’t already know? Christoph Waltz is someone we should have known way before Inglourious Basterds. He’s phenomenal! And for someone born in 1956, he’s in damn good shape. Melanie Thierry and Lucas Hedges are also great at playing around Qohen and the support cast is amusing, in a clown sort of way. Tilda Swinton and Matt Damon both play very… peculiar characters.
The Zero Theorem was certainly an enjoyable experience but I need to stress out a point. Something was bothering me as I was watching and I think I’ve found the issue. I seem to be getting “Burtonitis” from Gilliam’s work as of late. Like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam’s work is certainly quirky and has a very distinct feel to it but in some of the scenes, I felt the same kind of cringe I now get from all of Tim Burton’s work, post Sweeney Todd. That is to say, some of the stuff is starting to feel like a caricature of Gilliam’s style. It’s still damn good entertainment but it might just be that, like Burton (and Wes Anderson’s work since The Royal Tenenbaums), it is no longer for me.