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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.

Director:

Terry Gilliam

Writers:

Pat Rushin (screenplay), Terry Gilliam (additional dialogue)
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Popularity
3,786 ( 334)
2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Nothing is everything.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

UK | Romania | France | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Teorema Zero See more »

Filming Locations:

Bucharest, Romania See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$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

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color | Black and White (surveillance footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's production budget used to be $20 million, when it was planned to shoot in London, UK. Later it was decided to move the production to Bucharest, Romania, and the movie finally could be made for only $8.5 million. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Bainsley: Are you here alone?
Qohen Leth: We're generally everywhere alone.
Bainsley: I love mystery... turns me on.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Featured in Film '72: Episode dated 5 March 2014 (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Weird, wise and wonderful.
11 April 2014 | by shawneofthedeadSee all my reviews

Terry Gilliam has never found it easy to make one of his downright weird films. Studio interference has almost invariably led to project delays, postponements, and outright cancellations, with his final cuts emerging bruised, bloodied and - more often than not - broken. Interestingly, The Zero Theorem suffers from next to none of the scuttlebutt that usually accompanies a Gilliam film. Instead, this dense, complex, thought- provoking odyssey of human existence and (un)happiness feels like pure Gilliam: odd, uncompromising, but - at its best - almost breathtakingly brilliant.

In some not-so-distant, sparkly-bright dystopian future, brilliant and determinedly solitary mathematician Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) suffers through the tiny indignities of daily life. He's forced to leave the burnt-out church he calls home to report for work, where he crunches numbers for his clueless immediate supervisor Joby (David Thewlis). But all he wants is to stay close to his telephone, waiting for a call he believes will help him unravel the mysteries of the universe and his existence.

When mysterious head honcho Management (a silver-haired Matt Damon) finally gives him leave to work from home, Qohen is assigned the impossible Zero Theorem, a mathematical conundrum that has defeated many a mathematician before him. To keep him from going completely around the bend, Management sends him company in the form of Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), a nubile young woman with whom he forges an unexpected emotional connection; and Management's own genius teenage son Bob (Lucas Hedges).

If you're looking for a plot that makes sense and progresses in logical fashion, The Zero Theorem is not the film for you. In Gilliam's movie, based on a loopy, mind-bending script by Pat Rushin, plot points are more often than not metaphors for the human condition. The script can be simultaneously literal and obtuse: Qohen lives in a hollowed-out church, a blindingly obvious symbol of the fading of traditional religion; he's waiting for a call - read: calling - that will free him from the humdrum banalities of a worker-bee's life.

But that's also where the film's genius lies. It's an explosion of philosophical ideas, asking deep, difficult questions about happiness, humanity and hubris - often in the same scene. Few films and film-makers would dare to so boldly confront existential issues on this scale and to this depth. The titular Zero Theorem, after all, requires Qohen to prove that everything is nothing: that the entire universe, filled with people, ultimately has no meaning. Qohen's strange, isolated journey hints at some answers, but not anywhere near all of them.

Gilliam could easily have failed on two counts: the seemingly stereotypical blonde love interest; and the annoyingly precocious teenage boy. But, within these archetypes, The Zero Theorem finds something fascinating to say. Bainsley starts out as a ditzy blonde dream girl, but winds up offering Qohen plenty of soul and an elusive, transient kind of eternity. Bob, too, is a whip-smart delight, a child more in tune with the silent beats and rhythms of the universe than any number of people older and purportedly wiser than him.

The film would fail catastrophically without a leading man capable of handling the tragedy and comedy of Qohen Leth - a character who, in habitually referring to himself using the royal 'we' , is a metaphor for every human being that has ever been and will ever be. Waltz is more than up to the task. He is hilariously effective when called upon to wriggle into a skin-tight virtual-reality costume, and devastatingly heartbreaking in the moment when Qohen refuses a chance at freedom and happiness to stay locked into the dark, nihilistic world in which he lives.

There are also a pair of wonderful supporting turns - slightly larger than cameos - from Damon and Tilda Swinton. The former clearly enjoyed his time working on The Brothers Grimm, one of Gilliam's most disastrous on-set experiences, and here, he provides a grim, mysterious counterpoint to Waltz's Cohen - the latter only appears to be impenetrable and tough to crack. Swinton, meanwhile, is a hoot as Dr. Shrink-Rom, Qohen's at-home, virtual psychiatrist, fumbling through their sessions with tons of blustery, false cheer.

Perhaps most astounding of all is the fact that Gilliam made a film that looks so good - in its inventive, kitschy way - on a shoestring budget of US$8.5 million. That's pocket change for most Hollywood films, and there's no doubt that everyone involved took a huge pay-cut to make The Zero Theorem look as great as it does. The special effects are mostly wonderful, and the neon-coloured world through which the black-clad Qohen stalks practically bursts at the seams with detail and imagination.

The Zero Theorem is emphatically not a film that will appeal to everyone. There are those who will find themselves incredibly annoyed by its philosophical navel-gazing, and others who might find Qohen's entire journey pointless and irredeemably self-involved. But, when it comes down to it, it's hard to deny the weird, wacky power of Gilliam's movie. The Zero Theorem so bravely grapples with big ideas and complicated metaphors that it's hard not to admire the director's great courage and even greater ambition.


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