Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem” brings the viewer to an Orwellian world in which a central Management employs workers to solve a theorem that would give final certainties about the universe, its beginning and eventually its ending. This existential tale that explores some of mankind’s most basic questions about life and purpose poses many interesting ideas is a melting pot of lush scenarios.
Mr Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a semi-delusional employee working for the Management (Matt Damon). He has been dying for quite some time, or at least that is what he is certain of. The working-frenzy of the Management is somewhat reminiscent of a Chaplin’s “Modern Times” factory and Mr Leth is similarly breaking down – all he asks for is to be let work from home where he can wait for a phone call he has been expecting for all his life. Leth’s wish is finally granted and he immerses himself in the search for the theorem solution but he is soon distracted first by Beinsley (Mélanie Thierry), a blonde bombshell who becomes his love interest and then by Bob (Lucas Hedges), the Management’s son and geek expert. Leth is occasionally visited by his work supervisor (David Thewlis) and Dr Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton); it seems that everyone is keeping him from solving the long-thought mystery…
Gilliam’s imaginarium is as always an intricate jungle of extraordinary visions that here melts together techno hubs with ancient cathedrals of gothic style, the holy and unholy, all accompanied by a chaotic maze of pop culture references. It is visually stunning, on paper it presents an original script, the actors bring excellent performances; yet Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem” does not stand out to its full potential. The film develops slowly, it opens too many story lines without going into detail with any of them and feels generally unbalanced; it seems like the story was lost somewhere in an ocean of conceptual ideas and got somewhat washed away.
A dystopic tale of utter melancholy and hope wonderfully embodied in Waltz’s moving performance as Leth, a symbol for a everyman searching for the meaning of his existence, a parable for humanity itself. “The Zero Theorem” is still a film not to be missed for all Gilliam’s fans and those looking for a film beyond the usual schemes.