The Zero Theorem




2013
Directed by Terry Gilliam 
Starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges and Melanie Thierry 

Qohen Leth (Waltz) is a reclusive computer programmer working on the zero theorem, a theory that all existence is meaningless and nothing is connected. This film fits in perfectly with Gilliam's other future films Brazil and 12 Monkeys and I can comfortably say this is Gilliam's finest film since 1985s aforementioned Brazil. While the film is dealing with the meaning of life and existence its never heavy handed and is often quite funny. Familiar themes from other Gilliam films like big brother, government and madness are all explored but he clearly was thinking about technology with this outing.

During the opening sequence Qohen is bombarded by advertising while walking to work. A moving video billboard mentions a promotion called "Occupy Mall Street" and while this is clearly satire its sadly not that far off from our current reality. Most of the satire in the film is rooted in our overall relationship with technology, from the way characters in the film are all wearing ear buds to how people at a "party" all carry iPads. We are shown a reality that plays closer to an actual mirror than an exaggerated self image. Clearly Gilliam is asking us to disengage from our distractions and engage with our surroundings. 

Bob (Hedges) a 15 year old programming prodigy helps Qohen to interact with the outside world and find meaning in his life or at the very least he begins to open up to the possibility of experiencing the world outside of his job and home. Bainsley (Thierry) is a woman Qohen meets at a party and shows immediate interest in him. She  Bob and Bainsley act as agents of change, both characters represent opposing sides of the same idea. Both want him to connect to a world outside of himself but Bob encourages him to go physically outside and Bainsly wants him to connect through a computer. She says "It's better than real. You're in your computer and I'm in mine. We're connected by memory chips and fiber optics. We're safe here"

Most films about the exetensial questions in life are somewhat dense and academic in their approach but this is a film by Terry Gilliam so its really only fair to compare him to his previous work. Gilliam's films are always stunning to look at but sometimes his subjects are not worthy of the beauty he sorounds them with. This is not one of those films. This is classic Gilliam where both the story and the setting are deserving of one another. That symetry that few film makers can achieve the way he does.