After watching The Zero Theorem, I asked myself, "What have I just seen?" The answer to that was, "I have no idea."
I expected The Zero Theorem to be a film right out of left field, just like Director Terry Gilliam's previous films, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Brothers Grimm. But The Zero Theorem is not even in a ball park. It is clearly in a different realm, and it makes no sense to me at all. I should have been tipped off as to how bad it was by the fact there were only five people at the press screening I went to. And the reaction from them at the end of the movie was not a very good one.
I was really confused about the plot after leaving the film, and then I read an article in a magazine about the film that kind of, but not really, cleared it up for me: Qohen Leth (a shaven-headed Christoph Waltz) works for a company called Mancom (which sounds to me like a gay dating sight, but is not). There are very few clues as to what he does for the company, or what kind of business the company does, but Leth's job is to work on a project to prove that everything equals nothing. (Huh?) In other words, to determine if life has any meaning. (Huh?)
Leth works from home, which used to be a church, but is now a burned-out wreck of a dirty, rat-infested place. (It used to house priests who happened to have taken a vow of silence and therefore did not tell each other that their church was on fire). To put it mildly, it's disgusting. He even, at times, sits naked in front of his computer, while it screams at him: "Next installment is due in one hour. One must equal 100%". So he just can't seem to make his installment equal 100%. Are you confused? I was too.
To make matters even more confusing, Matt Damon (looking like a thinner Philip Seymour Hoffman) is The Boss of Mancom, who happens to wear clothing that matches his surroundings (chair, curtains), which quite odd. The boss (called Management in the film) sends his teenage son around to Leth's home to either 1) spy on him or 2) help him with his job as the son is, as you would expect, a computer whizz, or 3) try to annoy him. Perhaps it is all three, though this is not made clear in the film.
Leth is also visited by a very seductive woman (unknown Melanie Thierry), who gives him a disc to insert into his computer, and when he does, it takes him (to meet her) at a very romantic and beautiful island. Perhaps this is to escape his boring life. He's also been assigned a shrink from work, Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton) who speaks to him through his computer. Some other characters come and go, but it is not clear what their purposes are.
Once in a while Leth ventures out of his house to a world that looks like London in 100 years time, with visual adverts that follow him as he walks along the sidewalk, and a skyline that looks futuristic, even including what looks to be the Shard under construction (though it was filmed in Bucharest, as Gilliam prefers to shoot there because it's cheaper).
I find it unbelievable that two-time Oscar-winning actor Waltz would sign up to play a part so confusing, mad, stupid, and incomprehensible, and even to allow himself to be shown in various states of undress, with a belly! The Zero Theorem cost just over $13 million to make, and sure the sets look amazing and the special effects are good, but you'd think they could've used some of that money to write a better script and hire a director who would make a movie that would be interesting and intellectual.
What Gilliam & Co. have made is one big mess.