the zero theorum

The Zero Theorem is a 2013 science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Christoph Waltz, David Thewlis, Mélanie Thierry and Lucas Hedges.

Director Terry Gilliam has called The Zero Theorum the final part of a dystopian satire trilogy or “Orwellian triptych” begun with 1985’s Brazil and continued with 1995’s 12 Monkeys. This time round, the story centres on Qohen Leth (Waltz), a reclusive computer genius working on a formula to determine whether life holds meaning. It’s clear to anyone who has seen these three movies that Gilliam shares the same concerns that Orwell had – the oppression of the individual by totalitarian organizations, the loss of personal liberties due to the role of technology in enabling oppressive governments to monitor and control their citizens.

The Zero Theorum lacks a strong narrative structure that marked Brazil and 12 Monkeys as superior films. Gilliam’s ideas – when looked at individually, impress with imagination and creativity – but do not quite add up. Astute viewers can recognize the journey undertaken by Leth as he is tasked by his employer, Management (Damon) to solve the Zero Theorum and the people he connects with along the way i.e. Bainsley (Thierry) and Bob (Lucas Hedges) which force him out of his social alienation, self-imposed as he awaits the phone call that give his life purpose and meaning.

However, despite the stellar performance from Waltz, we are never quite clear about why Leth is even on this quest and his character seems unexplored somewhat (which leads to a very flat resolution). And this is the fault of the screenplay (written by Pat Rushin) solely because to Gilliam’s credit, everything else about The Zero Theorum bristles with intense artistic fervour. Loads of easter eggs populate the art direction and true to form, Gilliam’s dystopian world-building is a wonder to behold. Which is, I would submit, worth the price of admission itself.

The Zero Theorem is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

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