Terry Gilliam's latest, The Zero Theorem, is now on screens. Harry Guerin takes a trip down the cinematic rabbit hole.
If you're looking for inspiration, try Terry Gilliam - the man does not do jaded. At 73, he has more plates in the air now - the Python reunion, an opera, a book called Gilliamesque, the long-awaited Quixote - than ever; still laughs like his life depends on it (who's to say...) and still attacks his work with an enthusiasm that many of us only recall on the last day of school. He's in fine form once again with The Zero Theorem, the concluding part of his Brazil-Twelve Monkeys 'trilogy' and a complacency-busting story about our disconnected lives in an over-connected world.
Set in yet another dystopian future (don't let that put you off), the film stars Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth, a brilliant but deeply troubled data cruncher. Qohen is waiting for a very important call, wants to work from home and is trying to secure a meeting with Management about same. For both his talent and contrariness he gets his teleworking wish.
Qohen is put to work on The Zero Theorem, "a guaranteed burnout project" that seeks to prove that zero equals one-hundred per cent - or that everything in this life adds up to nothing. And so Qohen heads back home to his computer, unaware that he'll have to 'entertain' company before too long.
A canny shopper, Gilliam certainly obtained bang for his buck by filming his latest in Bucharest. With a trimmed-down budget of $8.5m, The Zero Theorem looks like it cost many times that figure, a hard-to-take-it-all-in collision of styles and colours and old and new, which will require repeated viewing by fans to really get full bang for their bucks. However, the central message, that no-one should be an island, shines throughout, and it's a testament to Gilliam's direction and Pat Rushin's writing that the film never becomes too clever or pleased with itself.
As the "worker bee in a vast swarm", Waltz switches off his trademark charisma and plays to perfection a man who is deadened to much of the magic of life. There's also a great turn by French star Mélanie Thierry as Bainsley, the misfit who may make Qohen think otherwise.
Perhaps because of the budget, the ending feels a little rushed. But time will be kind to The Zero Theorem, a cult favourite in the making. Switch off the phone and watch it with someone you really like spending some of your all-too-precious time with.