A Tense Future in the Trailer for Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem'

Gwynne Watkins

Terry Gilliam is re-imagining the future again. The director of Brazil (1985) and 12 Monkeys (1995) completes his dystopian trilogy with The Zero Theorem, a drama about a computer genius (Christoph Waltz) trying to calculate the meaning of existence while in the employ of an all-powerful corporation.  

The first official U.S. trailer for The Zero Theorem serves up a tantalizing slice of Gilliam’s vision. His future is a cluttered one: animated advertisements crowd the city square, and scraps of paper spiral through space like a newly formed galaxy. Waltz’s character has set up shop in a dusty chapel where he builds computer equipment, sleeps on the pipe organ, and has virtual chats with his psychiatrist (Tilda Swinton). There’s a love interest (Melanie Theirry) dressed like a nurse in a Japanese cartoon, and a foreboding boss (Matt Damon) seen only on posters and video screens. The comparisons to Gilliam’s cult classic Brazil are unmistakable, from the corporate drone in a surreal world of futuristic technology, to the beautiful woman who may or may not save him. 

As Gilliam sees it, his new film is not a prediction of the future, but a parable for the modern digital age. “When I made Brazil in 1984, I was trying to paint a picture of the world I thought we were living in then,” the director writes on the film’s website. “The Zero Theorem is a glimpse of the world I think we are living in now.”

The Zero Theorem will be available on iTunes and VOD on Aug. 19, and opens theatrically on Sept. 19.