Comic-Con: First 10 Minutes of Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem Screened


Director Terry Gilliam did not make the trip to San Diego this year, but that didn’t stop him from sending the first 10 minutes of his new film, The Zero Theorem, as a treat for his fans. The Brazil and 12 Monkeys director once again is exploring a stark future ripe with Orwellian themes with the new movie, which stars Christoph Waltz as a computer genius charged with finding the reason for human existence. Here’s a quick description – from memory – of the footage as shown.

The film opens with a black hole spinning quietly in space. Soon, also spinning into view, comes Waltz’s Qohen Leth sitting nude at his desk at home. The room is dark… almost Victorian. Qohen is ghost white, bald… and motionless. His phone starts ringing. He ignores it. It rings and rings and rings, until finally he lunges at hit and blurts out a paranoid “Hello!” The voice on the other end is inaudible, but it sound like someone selling something. He hangs up and starts to work. Soon, the phone rings again… and again his lunges, “Hello!”. This time, he’s greeted with silence. He hangs up.

“Another day. Another day,” he says.

He stands and walks to a sink and begins brushing his teeth. He begins to get dressed. Pulling on his clothes and approaching his front door. He puts on his coat and begins unlocking a series of locks… two, three, four… then he is outside. Outside is a bright, noisy place with distractions aplenty. Qohen is uncomfortable there. He turns back to chain and lock his door from the outside. A bum sitting very nearby orders him away, “Go away… Go away!” The outside world is a series of contiguous digital displays and wanton graffiti. He makes his way awkwardly dodging life… first a woman with a broom, then a series of small automobiles. All the while, digital bulletin boards attempt to invade his mind. One such board urges that The Church of Batman The Redeemer Needs You! He soon stops and holds his hand to his eyes, trying fruitlessly to block it all out. Soon, a voice is heard…

“We live in a chaotic, confusing world. What do we need? Who do we love? What brings us joy?”

The voice is from a presentation by Mancome, the company Qohen works for. Nearby a tall banner with a stern looking Matt Damon on it proclaims – Management. Everything Is Under Control. Soon, Qohen is at his work station… a futuristic cubical, both fantastic and completely non-sensical. His ‘work’ consists of getting a tube from a pair of hands that emerge from a slit window in from of him, placing it in the machine… then through gyrations of both a hand-held, video game-styled controller and bicycle pedal power… the tube is filled and quickly exchanged with the hands for a fresh one. This cycle is repeated over and over. Above the slit window is a camera pointed down at Qohen with a placard that reads ‘Mancome Is Watching.’

Soon Qohen is visited by Joby (David Thewlis), an obvious supervisor. Joby hovers and takes notes while Qohen continues the tube ritual. Qohen tells Joby he’s off to the medics soon, but Joby urges him to cancel due to the strain on productivity that would occur if his ‘best’ was not at post. Qohen reminds him he approved the visit that same morning. Reluctantly, Joby allows it.

At the clinic, presumably also on the Mancome campus, Qohen lies on a body-shaped bed at the center of the room while three doctors sit at a long table just past his feet. When asked what the problem is, Qohen announces ‘We’re dying.’ The doctors argue that there is only one of him and in fact he was not dying. One of the doctors approaches Qohen and begins light adjustments to his head and neck while the others continue to debate life and death. One finally says, “One could argue that life is a virus infecting our perfect form… which is death.”

The Zero Theorem is due to be released in Italy in December. The film has yet to attract a US distributor.

(Photos thanks to Empire)