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The standard sentence to be included in every review of a Terry Giliam film since… well… maybe since Brazil is “Better see Terry Gilliam fail in style rather than see most other authors succeed with their lesser vision”. With Zero Theorem, that idea may have reached a new level of truth. It is not, by any means, a thrilling film, it is a weird assimilation of visual ideas and special effects hampered (as it looks) from budgetary constraints.

It has a strangely reduced Christoph Waltz as the central character, limited to mostly looking haunted, and it never really tells you what the plot is all about. As a result, it looks half as shiny as the recent “Transcendence”, but still but allowed me to like it five times as much. Gilliam has this honesty about wanting to tell a story and about wanting to share his visual ideas that I cannot but approve of his efforts.

Of course: it is somehow cute to the level of slightly embarrassing to see a 90s style cube-fitting video game to be given a somehow existential role for the fate of humanity. I wished he had teamed up with some younger persons’ vision of what this undefined task of Waltz would need to look like in order to carry some gravitas. On the other hand, what is almost always right with Gilliam films is the battle of the individual against the system, and it is no coincidence that the term “Brazil” comes up a lot when people talk about the film. The term “Don Quixote” also comes up a lot, but that is Gilliam’s self-inflicted fate, and will not go away even if he does actually manage to complete that next film sometime next year.

In the best tradition of Gilliam production experiences, apparently in this case there is some serious friction with the distributor, leading to Zero Theorem being available since a couple of months ago in some countries, and being available as VoD first, before it can finally be seen on screens in the US over the next couple of months. He does not do things simple, this Mr Gilliam, and you have to love him for his Quixote-like stamina alone…

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