The Zero Theorem

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The Zero Theorem
A man bathed in pink light, sitting with at a strange machine with glowing green cables seeming coming out the back of his head.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Produced by
Written byPat Rushin
Starring
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyNicola Pecorini
Editing byMick Audsley
Studio
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing (UK)
Release dates
  • 2 September 2013 (2013-09-02) (Venice)
Running time107 minutes
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • Romania
LanguageEnglish
Budget$13.5 million[1]
 
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The Zero Theorem
A man bathed in pink light, sitting with at a strange machine with glowing green cables seeming coming out the back of his head.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Produced by
Written byPat Rushin
Starring
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyNicola Pecorini
Editing byMick Audsley
Studio
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing (UK)
Release dates
  • 2 September 2013 (2013-09-02) (Venice)
Running time107 minutes
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • Romania
LanguageEnglish
Budget$13.5 million[1]

The Zero Theorem is a 2013 science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, written by Pat Rushin, and starring Christoph Waltz, Lucas Hedges, Mélanie Thierry, and David Thewlis. The story centres on Qohen Leth (Waltz), a reclusive computer genius working on a formula to determine whether life holds meaning. Gilliam has called it the final part of a dystopian satire trilogy begun with 1985's Brazil and continued with 1995's 12 Monkeys.[2]

The film began production in October 2012.[3]

Plot[edit]

Qohen Leth is an eccentric and reclusive computer genius who lives in an Orwellian corporate world and suffers from existential angst. He waits for a phone call explaining the meaning of life. Under the instruction of a shadowy figure known only as "Management", Qohen works to solve the "Zero Theorem", a mathematical formula derived from Big Crunch theory. The fate of the universe as a black hole singularity is purported to show that life has no purpose. Qohen's work in the burnt-out chapel that serves as his home is interrupted by visits from Bainsley, a seductive woman, and Bob, the teenage son of Management.[4]

Cast[edit]

A computer programmer searching for the meaning of life. The script called for Qohen to be bald; Gilliam insisted that Waltz also shave his eyebrows, both to challenge his acting and visually differentiate Qohen from Waltz's previous roles.[5][6] Ewan McGregor and Billy Bob Thornton were previously cast.
A femme fatale who enters Qohen's life. Gilliam resisted pressure to cast an established American actress, wanting someone whom few viewers had seen. The director stated that "the difference is, in particular the American actresses, they all look similar, they're all the same shape, they're all trimmed down. I want somebody's who's real and beautiful at the same time. She had a kid a couple of years ago, so she has a real body as opposed to these manufactured bodies." Thierry had previously played "reserved, beautiful characters"; Gilliam instructed her to think of Bainsley as "Marilyn Monroe and Judy Holliday combined".[5] Jessica Biel was originally attached to the role.[7]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Pat Rushin was inspired to write the film by the book of Ecclesiastes, which he felt suggested such questions as "What is the value of life? What is the meaning of existence? What's the use?" Rushin wrote the 145-page first draft in ten days, with "no idea what [he] was doing". He checked several screenwriting books and screenplays out from the UCF library, including Terry Gilliam's Brazil.[13]

Producer Richard D. Zanuck originally signed Ewan McGregor to play Qohen Leth, but the actor dropped out. A later iteration of the project, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Biel and Al Pacino and directed by Terry Gilliam, was set to begin production in 2009, but Thornton vetoed filming in London because of his phobia of antiques.[7] Production was next set to begin in Vancouver, but Gilliam pulled out to work on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus following the death of its star, Heath Ledger.[13] In 2012, the project was restarted. Christoph Waltz replaced Thornton in the lead role, and the late Zanuck's son Dean replaced him as producer.[14][15]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography was scheduled to run from October 22 to December 3, 2012.[16] It eventually required one more day, meaning that the shoot has actually lasted 37 days.[17] On the production process, Gilliam stated: "It's been one year from start to finish. Most of my movies take three years but this was a fast shoot and it was good to be in Bucharest. I loved the crews and Romanians work very hard and they're very skilled. Because we had limited funds we were flying people in for the day and back out again. I was knackered by the end of it."[18]

The director commented on the difficulty of producing such a film in the current industry climate: "This was a more modest budget than some of the big effects movies I've worked on but it's going to look so good on the screen. What's happened is the industry has become very much like society – there are the rich [films] and the cheap ones and the middle-budget films have been squeezed out of existence. You've got to get clever and take advantage of your friends who work for scale and work in great places with great crews where you get a bigger bang for your buck."[18]

Production design[edit]

In an e-mail sent to production designer Dave Warren, director Terry Gilliam concisely stated the look he intended for the film: "Neo Rauch + Ukelele Ike = The Zero Theorem".[19]

Music[edit]

The film's score will be provided by British composer George Fenton. Gilliam described it as being "like a ghost, this other character we never see."[18]

Release[edit]

The Zero Theorem premiered at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on 2 September 2013.[20][21]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 56% based on reviews from 16 critics.[22]

Harry Knowles, who saw the film before August 2013 (several months before its release), gave a very positive review of The Zero Theorem, stating it was "perfect", and Gilliam's best film since Brazil, describing Waltz's performance as "amazing" and that the actor deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He also hoped that the final version of the movie will be the one he saw, stating "There’s not a frame needing to be lost".[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Hopewell (2013-08-31). "Venice: Flexible Biz Model Amps Up Voltage". Variety.com. Retrieved 4 September 2013. "€10.34 million (around $13.5 million)" 
  2. ^ Pulver, Andrew (2 September 2013). "Terry Gilliam blames internet for the breakdown in 'real relationships'". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Dreams: Terry Gilliam talks about preproduction for The Zero Theorem". smart.co.uk. August 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Fleming, Mike (14 August 2012). "UPDATE: Toronto: Terry Gilliam Confirms Christoph Waltz For 'Zero Theorem'". deadline.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Morgan, David (2 September 2013). "Terry Gilliam calculates The Zero Theorem". CBS News. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Dreams: The Zero Theorem". smart.co.uk. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Schmidlin, Charlie (30 August 2013). "Al Pacino, Jessica Biel & Billy Bob Thornton Among Cast In First Incarnation Of Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem'; Plus New Photos". blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist. 
  8. ^ a b c Fleming, Mike (1 October 2012). "Terry Gilliam Sets David Thewlis, Tilda Swinton For 'The Zero Theorem'". deadline.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Fischer, Russ (10 October 2012). "Matt Damon, Peter Stormare, and Sanjeev Bhaskar Join Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem'". slashfilm.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Humphries-Brooks, Lauren (12 October 2012). "Ben Whishaw Will Cameo In Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem". wegotthiscovered.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "The Zero Theorem Production Notes". 31 August 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  12. ^ McWeeny, Drew (19 July 2013). "The first 10 minutes of Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem screened at Comic-Con 2013". Hitfix. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Craig, Kevin (August 30, 2013). "Meet a Professor Coming to a Screen Near You". today.ucf.edu. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  14. ^ Fischer, Russ (13 August 2012). "Terry Gilliam's Next Movie is Wild Existential Sci-Fi 'The Zero Theorem,' Starring Christoph Waltz". slashfilm.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  15. ^ Schaefer, Sandy (August 2012). "Terry Gilliam is Making 'The Zero Theorem' With Christoph Waltz". screenrant.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "Hollywood film hires an Indian marketing Agency for the first time". bollyspice.com. 
  17. ^ "Dreams: The Zero Theorem". 
  18. ^ a b c Kay, Jeremy (18 May 2013). "Terry Gilliam, The Zero Theorem". screendaily.com. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Stubbs, Phil (2013). Dreams: 2013 News Blog, Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine
  20. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (July 14, 2013). "Terry Gilliam Says 'The Zero Theorem' Headed To Venice Film Festival; Jessica Chastain's 'Eleanor Rigby' Also Rumored". blogs.indiewire.com. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  21. ^ "2 September". www.labiennale.org. Venice Film Festival. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "The Zero Theorem (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  23. ^ "Harry says Terry Gilliam's THE ZERO THEOREM is his best since BRAZIL & Christoph Waltz's Best Actor Oscar!". Ain't It Cool News. August 2013. Archived from the original on 20113-08-26. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 

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