Early descriptions painted director Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem as a rather bleak affair, and while it still may be true tonally, visually it’s bright, quirky, and almost comic. Well, most of the world is anyways. Christoph Waltz, with shaved head and all clad in black, looks bleak as every, but the rest of this footage released today is bright and cheerful – dare we say sinisterly so.
The footage seems somewhere between Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Spy Kids, with a good measure of The Truman Show thrown in, especially when the sweeping lady insistently blocks Waltz’s path. The story follows computer hacker Qohen Leth’s (Waltz) quest to discover the meaning of life, only to find himself sidetracked by the “Management,” which would appear to be a 1984-style Party (or pick your dystopian metaphor) with Matt Damon on as its head honcho.
The movie saw its premier at Venice over the long weekend, where the consensus seems to be that it’s a solid effort, but one with some failing. Gilliam is best known for films like Brazil and 12 Monkeys, and The Zero Theorem shoots for a similar high-mindedness. The movie would seem to be better for this commitment to its concept, but does a fair bit of meandering before not arriving particularly anywhere. The performances are generally strong, and you’d expect nothing less from the likes of Waltz and Damon, at a minimum, but some verbal and behavioral tics that were apparently very intentional could get in the way without much payoff. In fact, that would seem to be a good summary, by all accounts: pretty interesting, but a little on-the-nose, applying to the production design every bit as much as the story or the characters. As The Playlist’s Oliver Lyttelton puts it, “It might not be a return to the form [for Gilliam] of Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys, but it’s a lot better than what we’ve had from Gilliam in the last decade, and we sincerely hope there’s plenty more to come.”