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The Zero Theorem (2013)

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A hugely talented but socially isolated computer operator is tasked by Management to prove the Zero Theorem: that the universe ends as nothing, rendering life meaningless. But meaning is what he already craves.


Terry Gilliam


Pat Rushin (screenplay), Terry Gilliam (additional dialogue)
3,561 ( 9)
2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christoph Waltz ... Qohen Leth
Gwendoline Christie ... Woman in a Street Commercial
Rupert Friend ... Man in Street Commercial
Ray Cooper Ray Cooper ... Man in Street Commercial
Lily Cole ... Woman in Street Commercial
David Thewlis ... Joby
Sanjeev Bhaskar ... Doctor
Peter Stormare ... Doctor
Ben Whishaw ... Doctor
Mélanie Thierry ... Bainsley
Matt Damon ... Management
Lucas Hedges ... Bob
Margarita Doyle Margarita Doyle ... Mancom Computerised Lips
Tilda Swinton ... Dr. Shrink-Rom
Emil Hostina ... Slim Clone


A hugely talented but socially isolated computer operator is tasked by Management to prove the Zero Theorem: that the universe ends as nothing, rendering life meaningless. But meaning is what he already craves.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Nothing is everything.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »


UK | Romania | France | USA



Release Date:

19 August 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Teorema Zero See more »

Filming Locations:

Bucharest, Romania See more »


Box Office


$8,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$79,967 (United Kingdom), 14 March 2014, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$83,803, 19 September 2014, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$219,438, 3 October 2014
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color | Black and White (surveillance footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Qohen has 2 nicknames in the film: Quinn (by Mr. Joby) and Q (by Bob). Rupert Friend, who appears on a billboard in the beginning of the movie, plays a character named (Peter) Quinn in Homeland (2011) and Ben Whishaw, one of the doctors, plays Q in Skyfall (2012). See more »


When Qohen is sitting at his computer naked, he is wearing flesh colored underwear. See more »


Mancom Computerised Lips: 0 zero must equal 100%. Good Luck.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of the great Richard D. Zanuck who kept the ball rolling. See more »


References The Matrix (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Waiting for the Call – What other reason is there to pick up the phone?
25 September 2014 | by Drive-in_ZeppelinSee all my reviews

Once again I find myself tired, weary, and insomniac struggling to find the words to describe a movie that has rooted itself in my thoughts for the better part of a week. I speak of course of Terry Gilliam's latest sci-fi venture The Zero Theorem (2013), which, even after a second viewing tonight, has left me bewildered, enchanted, and ultimately feeling hollow. Directed by Gilliam and written by Pat Rushin, The Zip-T, as they refer to it in the film, deals with that age old question of the meaning of life and whether or not everything is nothing or if nothing is everything.

While I imagine most of you dear readers will initially be turned off by that previous line of philosophical rigmarole, the first thing you need to understand about this movie and really the only accurate way to describe it is that it is a Terry Gilliam film. If you are unfamiliar with Gilliam as a director, you might have heard of a little known comedy troupe known as Monty Python. Gilliam was the only American member of the legendary group (though he has since renounced his citizenship), and the man behind the iconic cartoons and animations. While he has an extensive and cerebral filmography, I'm only going to confine myself to only referring to what has been dubbed Gilliam's Dystopic Triptych: Brazil (1985), 12 Monkeys (1995), and now the Zero Theorem. Gilliam's films are visually stunning and often characterized by being wildly imaginative and fantastical – generally being layered with satire, symbolism and surrealism.

True to his nature, the ZT is a visual and intellectual feast that is today what Brazil was in 1985; a surrealist commentary of the times. While Brazil was satirizing being a cog in the soulless bureaucracy, the ZT is treatise on dreams and the struggle of finding meaning in the digital world we live in. The film stars Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained) as Qohen Leth, or simply Q, who is a reclusive phobia-ridden programmer of sorts that believes that one day he will receive a phone call that will provide meaning to his life.

He lives in a burnt out church that he bought from an insurance company, and detests the vibrant and absurdist world he has to interact with on his daily commute to work. Preferring the solitude of his home, Q begrudgingly treks to his quasi-cubicle at Mancom, the 'big business' of the future, where he 'crunches entities' (basically playing a 3-d version of a Tetris/Sudoku hybrid). He is also joined on screen by that kid from Moonrise Kingdom, Lucas Hedges as Bob, and a ridiculously good-looking and often scantily clad Mélanie Thierry as Bainsley. Matt Damon also makes a few appearances as 'Management', often making a fashion statement and offering a few cryptic lines to Q.

Preferring solitude, Q is eventually rewarded with a home office in exchange for working to prove the Zero Theorem, which essentially is meant to prove existence is meaningless and from the chaos of the big bang, all of reality will eventually revert to nothingness. Pretty deep right? Well naturally Q finds the project overwhelming and is soon burnt out. Management enlists the beautiful Bainsley and wunderkind Bob to get him back on track, and in the process they irreversibly change the character and nature of Q.

While in my first viewing of the film I left satisfied, albeit a little confused, I find myself the second round feeling almost at one with the Waltz's character, intent on finding meaning in everything or nothing. Every scene in this film is so very dense with symbolism and subject to interpretation that I cannot begin to imagine what really goes through Gilliam's head when he directs. At times certain things feel extremely contrived like the fact that Q lives in a burnt out church, but they are all rooted in the Orwellian and Kafkaesque landscape that Gilliam so often likes to employ. Gilliam has a very unique visual style that rewards the audience with masterful set design that is complemented by what I'd call a 'Paranoid POV' type shot that is reminiscent of Carol Reed's famous crooked angle shots in The Third Man (1949).

The best way I can describe this movie is as a spiritual and existentialist journey that ponders the meaning of life and the nature of reality. It's fairly obvious that Waltz's Q is absolutely insane, but in that insanity he is also perceived as being the best candidate to solve these puzzles. The film features outstanding performances, most notably by Waltz, and admittedly I fell in love with Melanie Thierry every time she was on screen. The future Gilliam portrays is both unique and at the same time frighteningly absurd, although ultimately a distorted reflection of the world of 2014. Whether or not you find something meaningful from this film, it is the type to linger in your thoughts long after you've left the theatre. My friends will understand me as I excuse myself to go search for my own Shell Beach, and for all others I recommend you stop whatever you're doing and watch The Zero Theorem followed by Dark City (1998).

Read this and other reviews on DriveInZeppelin's website

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