ZERO THEOREM, THE
In a future London, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), an eccentric and reclusive computer genius is on a quest to understand the purpose of human existence but continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management (Matt Damon); this time, they send a teenager (Lucas Hedges) and lusty love interest (Mélanie Thierry) to distract him.
Review by Louise Keller:
Wondrously bizarre, Terry Gilliam's Zero Theorem exploration of the meaning of life explodes on screen in a blaze of imagination with its thought-provoking concepts, perverse humour and uniquely zany visuals. Christoph Waltz blends naturally into the mix, brilliant and striking as the intense, deranged and hairless scientist obsessed with finding life's answers in the maze of chaos. The joy of the film is in the discovery of all the elements: the wild characters, the over-the-top production design, the lollypop colours contrasted by monotone and the brazen paradox of the foibles of humanity versus the inflexible constraints of the virtual world. It may not always make sense, but one thing is for sure - it's one hell of a ride that kicks boredom, defies rational thought and grabs you every inch of the way.
Gilliam dishes up his fantasy with no shortage of memorable visuals. The film begins with a naked Waltz (as Qohen Leth) sitting at his technical post at his home - formerly a church, now a hybrid virtual paradise amid the pews, murals and candles. He uses the royal 'we' as a matter of course, although he admits it is a habit he is trying to shake. The party at which he meets the divine Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) is a feast for the imagination where David Thewlis (as his supervisor) appears wearing a leopard suit, his back to front toupee momentarily concealed, while others are dressed in outrageous feathered style - be it as pharaohs, American Indians or Arabs.
Matt Damon makes an impact in each of his three scenes. I laughed out loud in the first one, when Damon (as the boss of Mancom, the organisation for which Qohen works) almost disappears into the zebra-inspired chair in which he is sitting, wearing a matching suit, white hair, black rimmed glasses and a tea cup precariously balanced on his left knee. The other two scenes stand out equally. It is he who has commissioned Qohen to prove the Zero Theorem - that zero must equal 100%. For this quest, Qohen manipulates virtual Rubik cubes into a digital jigsaw and is given special leave to work from home, instead of sitting in one of the frenetic cubicles in the work space that resembles a video parlour.
Special mention goes to Tilda Swinton as Dr Shrink-Rom, a toothy virtual therapist whose online sessions addressing Qohen's fears, joys and nothings are priceless. I love the virtual sex fantasy site to which Qohen is invited by Bainsley where tantric, non-penetrative sex occurs. To connect, Qohen wears a red Satan-like jumpsuit (that looks more like one belonging to Santa's helpers) and he clicks his mouse on the heart-shaped sign that spells 'enter', tantalisingly placed on a certain part of Bainsley's anatomy. Her most eye-popping outfit, dressed as a nurse shows her in revealing, skin-tight white latex and lace-topped white stockings, her bright pink wig and matching pink platform stilettos a shock of colour. But it's the fantasy island at sunset (where the sun never sets) that triggers our greatest imaginations, where real emotions supercede those in the tech-inspired 'real' world and where they are connected by memory chips and fibre optics. Lucas Hedges is impressive as Bob, Management's son, who descends on Qohen like a whirlwind along with other colourful characters, ordering pizza and throwing the remains to expectant mice who collect and scurry.
There's ongoing dialogue debating the point of anything when everything amounts to nothing and throws enough crazy ideas at us to make our heads spin. Throughout, there is a Truman Show-esque feel about the proceedings, with black and white images periodically flashing across the screen, alerting us to the fact that Big Brother (or at least Management) is watching. Just when you wonder where everything is going, Gillian finds his mark as the countdown begins to the chaotic conclusion. There may not be too many answers, but there are enough questions to stimulate, fascinate and thoroughly entertain.
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ZERO THEOREM, THE (M)
CAST: Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedges, Matt Damon, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton
PRODUCER: Nicolas Chartier, Dean Zanuck
DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam
SCRIPT: Pat Rushin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicola Pecorini
EDITOR: Mick Audsley
MUSIC: George Fenton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Warren
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 15, 2014 (NSW: Palace Norton Street, Leichhardt; VIC: Cinema Nova, Carlton; QLD: Palace Centro, Fortitude Valley; SA: Palace Nova Eastend, Adelaide; WA: Luna Leederville)