Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: THE ZERO THEOREM: Terry Gilliam Seeks Dystopia [LFF 2013]

Christoph Waltz The Zero Theorem

The Zero Theorem (2013) Film Review from the 57th Annual BFI London Film Festival (LFF), a movie directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas HedgesMatt Damon, Tilda Swinton, Sanjeev Bhakskar, Peter Stormare, Ben Whishaw, Dana Rogoz, Emil Hostina, Pavlic Nemes, Gwendoline Christie, Rupert Friend, Ray Cooper, Lily Cole, and Robin Williams.

The Zero Theorem, the newest crazy-looking, fancy production from Terry Gilliam delivers just about everything a Terry Gilliam fan would want and enjoy. All in all, the director’s specific style will alienate some viewers and attract others. On one hand, the messy futuristic world crafted by Gilliam is very striking. It is filled with filth, color, and chaos. The performances are great: Christoph Waltz is spectacular as always and Lucas Hedges demonstrates his full potential. There is plenty of humor in the film-some of it is caused through the craziness of the world, some of it is just witty script-writing. The positives of The Zero Theorem are its acting and appearance. The negative is its story. The main question it poses is undeniably intriguing but is vastly unfocused. Its outlandishness made it impossible for me to attach to the characters and to be immersed in their colorful world.

There is barely a thing on-screen that is incapable of grasping your attention. The productions design is very depressing and dark. The costumes have screaming rich colors. Everybody and everything looks unusually insane in its own way. It was a pleasure or at least a wonder to behold this strange world that mixes energy and despair at the same time. The same kind of craziness was transferred to the story. You have people constantly working in front of their computers as if they play computer games. Every character is maniacal about the work he is doing. Everything is hyperbolized in The Zero Theorem. This excess is what grasped my attention and at the same time it was responsible for my lack of care for pretty much everything that was going on-screen.

The Zero Theorem was visually arresting and awkward enough to keep the viewer interested but it all felt incredibly foreign. I didn’t get attached in any way to this decaying society. The lack of order and morality and the way people were lost was in deed quite evident. There were too many flashing lights, too many crazy, humorous events happening around the corner for me to make some strong emotional connection. Terry Gilliam explores in his fictional world the idea of how a dictator can use chaos in order to maintain control upon his struggling subjects. Throughout the film we live in the chaos and when the truth is revealed to us, it is supposed to shock us and stir us. I can’t get shocked by a film so weird and in a world so different. I certainly got the idea but I never got the thrills or the emotions.

When it comes down to emotions in The Zero Theorem, the actors do a far better job than Gilliam. Christoph Waltz and Melanie Thierry form the heart of the film when there is a heart to be found at all. In the most dramatic scene, my personal favorite of the film, the two actors affect the viewer deeply through their heart-broken expressions. Christoph Waltz displays such devotion and energy that he happens to be the main and possibly only reason for me to care about the film. In spite of all the madness surrounding him, he successfully and potently conveys strong relatable human emotions. The greatest source of entertainment in the film was Lucas Hedges playing the clever, out-going genius teenager assisting the protagonist. He will keep you interested all the way through and he will bring life to the screen as equally as Waltz does if not more.

The Zero Theorem is another one of Terry Gilliam’s remarkable, visually striking, uniquely strange films, which will please fans but is likely to disappoint viewers like myself who are not used to his style and who can’t cope with his original but vastly alienating worlds.

Rating: 5/10

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About the author

Deyan Angelov

My name is Deyan Angelov and I am 25. I have written articles for FilmBook. I graduated from the University of London, Royal Holloway in 2014. I have worked as an air operator, sound recorder and camera operator for different TV stations. I have participated in a variety of internships at Nu Boyana Film Studios.

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