February 5, 2015

Blu-ray Review: The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam is an interesting filmmaker. I have not seen all of his films, fewer still on the big screen, but given the opportunity, you should check them out in any fashion that you can. His latest release is not is best, but it is still an entertaining excursion. It is called The Zero Theorem and it is rather fascinating. No matter whether you like it or not, you will have a reaction to it, even if your reaction does not reveal itself in logical fashion. With The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam has crafted a film that is as newly Gilliam as it is reminiscent of his past successes. To that end, I enjoyed this, even as I do not love it.

The Zero Theorem centers on Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), a quirky workaday fellow who works as a number cruncher for some faceless corporation. The corporation applauds the individual, while always keeping an eye on them with obvious big brother cameras focusing on them. Qohen is convinced he is dying and wishes to get approval to work from home to cut down on expense, travel, and down time. After being jerked around by the powers that be, he gets the go ahead. Still firmly believing he is dying, gets his cavernous home set up so that he can continue crunching the numbers while waiting for his call.

Along with the gp ahead to work from home, he is assigned to work on the titular Zero Theorem, also referred to as Zip-T. What is it exactly? Well, it is a theorem whose goal is to prove existence is meaningless. It is an interesting thing to ponder, much less be forced to try and prove. While he is working the numbers, he is visited by Bainsley, a sexy pseudo-prostitute with whom Qohen develops affection for. There is also the bosses kid, who goes by and calls everyone else Bob. So, pair the search for the disapproval of existence with the formation of a sort of and severely dysfunctional family and you end up with something that sort of defies explanation, not unlike the theorem they are trying to explain.

Even while I did not feel completely involved and kept at a distance, the movie held my attention at all turns. It was interesting to watch Waltz play this quirky, introverted, odd ball of character and how he slowly changes with exposure to both Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) and Bob. They sort of wake him up from the worker bee existence, changing his perceptions and his thought on his impending death. Pair that with Terry Gilliam's gift for visuals and you have a movie that gives you a lot to work with.

The movie has this odd way of moving through its paces. It feels rather cold and offputting early on, even with the use of bright colors. It slowly warms up as his interactions increase. I think that much of the ideological success is because of Christoph Waltz, he has this way of approaching the material that just works and keeps you interested even as it seems to make no sense. There is also the great set design, it looks like it was limited in budget, but Qohen's home is a gorgeous layout, plus his work that appears to be a combination of a Rubiks Cube, Tetris, and Jenga is interesting. It really has a look and feel all its own. Again, I do not completely love it, but it is hard to ignore what it has going for it.

The Zero Theorem is a movie I suspect will grow and reveal more with repeat viewings, but as it stands, would seem to be an interesting companion piece to Brazil. I feel as if both could be a part of the same universe, just looked at from different perspectives based on the thoughts and feelings of the central character. Gilliam has this way of visualizing space and technology and how they interact, distract, control, entertain, and interfere with our lives that is pretty fascinating. Watch how he combines the tech with basic issues of human interaction.

The video transfer is in the ratio of 1.75:1 and it looks quite good. The movie was shot on film and the result is the movie has nice depth and rich colors. It is a touch to the soft side, but it still looks fantastic. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and it acquits itself admirably. Dialogue is clear (and filled with some interesting accents) and blends nicely with the score and handles the bustling city and office alongside his quieter abode well. No complaints here!

The extras include a number of featurettes with some interviews that take a look at the making of the film, the costumes, sets, and visual effects. Sadly, no commentary track, but the featurettes do give some good looks at what went into the movie's creation.


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