Do you ever get the feeling that a writer or director doesn’t exactly know how to end a film? Or maybe they had a good idea. On paper it looked good. In the pitch meeting it sounded good. Everything worked on the story boards, but when it was filmed it just didn’t feel right. I get that way when I think about having a McRib. It sounds like a good idea, but when you are faced with the messy actuality of a McRib your confidence is shaken.
I am not saying that the rest of Zero Theorem was great, far from it. The films of Terry Gilliam are epic. I watched Brazil as an unassuming teenage and I couldn’t think straight for a week. I knew better when I watched 12 Monkeys and still it blew me away.
The premise of The Zero Theorem sounded good. Maybe that was the problem, the film was all premise and no content. Compared to the vibrant sense of future dystopia created in Brazil and 12 Monkeys, or the wacked out world of Time Bandits, The Zero Theorem felt poorly put together. But hey, it’s Gilliam. A new filmmaker would get shit for a cheap sense of environment, Gilliam can take it.
My problem with the film was where it ends up, which is nowhere. Now given the premise of working out that the theory of everything is nothing, nowhere was an intended direction. However, nowhere doesn’t leave you with an enduring sense of the movie.
So what is the future of The Zero Theorem? No, not the future that the film suggests but the actual film existence of the film. It might make cult classic, but I don’t think so. Gilliam already has much better cult films under his belt. It is probably going to be more of thinker. Like Guy Ritchie’s Revolver. A general hum of message board discussion about what is real and what the ending means, about where Qohen ends up and what happens to everyone else. Or a film studies class discussion on everything from meaning to the fate of great directors. Let’s hope Gilliam has another film in the works.