The Zero Theorem – “Nothing’s perfect. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing to worry about.”
Written by: Pat Rushin
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Cristoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, Lucas Hedges, Matt Damon, and Tilda Swinton
“The Zero Theorem” the third part of Terry Gilliam’s dystopian trilogy (the first two parts being “Brazil” and “12 Monkeys”) invokes feelings in it’s audience similar to it’s predecessors. Feelings of philosophical wonderment, of experiencing a waking dream, and of empathy for the main character. Also similarly, it stays with you after you have watched it. Causing you to question the reality around you. Giving you important things to ponder.
If there was one thing I would say sets Mr. Gilliam apart from most directors, it is that ability to make a film that not only tells a good story, not only looks beautiful, but sticks to your soul. In “The Zero Theorem”, with the help of a magnificent cast featuring the brilliant Christoph Waltz, he may have his most powerfully symbolic film yet. Let’s delve into why that is.
Waltz plays Qohen Leth a man who has but one purpose in life: to receive a call that will inform him of his purpose in life. He works for a powerful corporation called Mancom which is run by the dubious man known only as “Management” (Matt Damon). Leth is specially chosen and given an important assignment. That assignment is to prove the zero theorem, a seemingly impossible mathematical equation that will prove that everything = nothing. He is told that if he succeeds, he will get the call he has been waiting for for so long.
Leth soon meets a pair of “Helpers” that serve more as a distraction from the mental stress of attempting to solve the equation. First, he meets Bainsley (Thierry) a gorgeous, free spirited, internet call girl. Later he meets Bob, a tech genius who also happens to be the son of Management. The two take turns trying to help him achieve some sort of happiness in an existence that is painfully isolated and sad. He repeatedly shoves them aside though in order to complete his task and get his call. Sacrificing what he refuses to see as the only things that really matter: love and companionship.
The script from Pat Rushin is most certainly mind-bending and metaphorical. The cinematography is beautiful in a way only Gilliam can manage in that it is lovely but also depressing. The acting is impressive by the entire cast. I expected (and got) a masterful performance from Waltz. It was Ms. Thierry though who stole every scene she was in. Her turn as Bainsley immediately brought to mind Audrey Tautou as the title character in “Amelie”. The same magnetic charm and breathtaking beauty along with a very needed dash of lightheartedness.
Like most of Gilliam’s films, this is not for the movie watcher who wants the plot spoon fed to them. You will have to do a fair amount of critical thinking. But, if you are like me and enjoy that in a film you will most assuredly love “The Zero Theorem”. I know I did.