The Zero Theorem
Official Selection, Fantastic Fest 2013
Official Selection, Glasgow Film Festival 2014
“A visually splendid nightmare of totalitarian glitz… social rage expressed not in a frown but a giggle” – Mary Corliss, TIME
“We are, generally, everywhere alone.”
“We” being Qohen Leth, a brilliant mathematician/recluse/worker drone who seeks the meaning of existence in an existence where all he does is slave away his days working for a faceless, soulless corporation, pounding numbers into a computer, unsure of what his work accomplishes, but sure that he can accomplish something significant if left to his own devices. Then he gets his wish: Management is assigning him the Zero Theorem, a mathematical formula that may prove the meaning of life is, in fact, nothingness. The theorem has crushed the minds of lesser programmers, but Qohen is determined to crack it and discover the reason for all existence, provided he can work without distraction. But those distractions keep coming: A company-provided online psychiatrist; his supervisor; Management’s genius son; and, finally, Bainsely, the beautiful woman who not only provides Qohen with the “We” he didn’t know he was looking for and the chance to not only experience love and happiness, but also the opportunity to prove the Zero Theorem wrong.
Finally! If there ever was a filmmaker whose work was perfectly suited for Fantasia, it’s Terry Gilliam, and it’s high time that we screen a new work by this legend of fantastic cinema (and cinema in general). THE ZERO THEOREM is the last in his “Orwellian Trilogy” that included his 1985 masterpiece BRAZIL and 1995’s 12 MONKEYS, and it’s a pure Gilliam in every way. A film about a seemingly hopeless world that doesn’t know what to do with a glimmer of hope, it resonates with many of the themes of Gilliam’s best work but feels like a new kind of Gilliam, one angrier with the current state of things and more determined than ever to do something about it. It’s also populated by one of his best casts yet — a hairless Christoph Waltz, in a superb performance; the delightful Melanie Thierry; a wonderful Tilda Swinton (Gilliam and Swinton, together at last!); and at least one major Hollywood superstar who shall remain nameless. As much a pleasure to look at as it is to watch, THE ZERO THEOREM is the work of a master filmmaker who hasn’t lost a step. The pleasure’s all ours, Mr. Gilliam.
— Matthew Kiernan