Matt Micucci continues his reports from the 56th BFI London Film Festival with a look at Youth and Terry Gilliam’s latest film The Zero Theorem.
Youth – Tom Shoval
With his feature film debut, Tom Shoval paints a realistic picture of dangerous every day culture of Israel and its youth culture but neither pontificating not inaccessible to an international audience. It is the story of two brothers living on the outskirts of Tel Aviv who come up with a plan to kidnap a girl to help their family’s financial struggles and the problems of their unemployed father. To the them, this plan is almost a game, and their job is made all the easier by the fact that one of them enlists in the army and is presented a rifle. Quite remarkably the film never seems to unravel with great urgency but remains absorbing mostly thanks to the great juxtaposition of the domestic drama elements with the kidnapping thriller. It is also interesting to see a distressing sense of humour in a film that uses a realistic approach in style and content. To the two brothers, this kidnapping plot is nothing more than a game; the haunting element is the fact that they are given a rifle in the first place.
The Zero Theorem – Terry Gilliam
The Zero Theorem has been bashed in some circles mostly composed of the same old tirades that accompany analysis of most of Gilliam’s works and point a vulgar finger towards faults that could be summed up in one expression – over indulgence. Yet, in reality, The Zero Theorem seems to be the most rewarding work the visionary filmmaker has made in at least ten years.
The film is set in a ‘timeless future’ world, which nicely draws parallels with what is arguably his ultimate masterpiece Brazil, a film with which it shares a lot of the same the same comments and concerns on the martyrdom of the working class. Christoph Weitz plays a man who is visibly physically and mentally scarred, perhaps by a self-imposed illness due to a somewhat masochistic lifestyle that sees him leading and empty existence in perpetual attendance of a call that might reveal to him the meaning of life.
While the ethical observations on the frustration of the working class, which touches on many themes such as religion, love and sex, is nothing particularly new, Gilliam successfully brings Pat Rushin’s screenplay to life in the most creative of ways and manages to keep the film together and compact. On top of that, the restricted size of the budget leads to a wonderful and unique art direction and overall visual look that feels unusual and fresh in the science fiction genre.
Furthermore, a hairless Christoph Weitz turns in a brave lead performance as the computer genius and shows a great connection with Gilliam and his imagination.