Terry Gilliam’s latest venture, The Zero Theorem, debuts next month at the Venice Film Festival and it’s rumoured to be a return to the kind of surreal observations of the world we live in that made Brazil so amazing.
The Zero Theorem stars Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz in the role of Qohen Leth, a programmer for major corporation ManCom. He is driven to distraction by the stunning Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) while he waits for a life changing phone call.
According to Gilliam, the film is meant to be like anything else recently released, so it has an absence of zombies, superheroes or spaceships (although Gilliam says that perhaps there might be some spaceships after all). The film was low budget compared to his more recent films, but Gilliam says that he found that liberating because it enabled him to take creative risks.
If you can’t wait for the film’s general release next year, have a look at one of these Gilliam films for a reminder of his twisted genius.
5. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Gilliam co-wrote The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which is based on the outrageous stories Baron Munchausen was supposed to have told about his wartime exploits against the Ottoman Empire. Although the stories attributed to Munchausen (who was a real person) are greatly exaggerated, Gilliam takes them even further in a riot of surreal and ridiculous situations.
The film opens in a city at war during ‘The Age of Reason’. A theatre company is performing an adaptation of Munchausen’s life against a backdrop of the invading Turkish army, but are soon interrupted by a heckler in the audience who claims to be the genuine Baron. Annoyed by the number of inaccuracies, he decides to put the record straight by telling his story to the audience of the adventures he’d had along with his companions, Berthold, the fastest man in the world, Adolphus, a sniper with incredible eyesight, Gustavus, who has amazing hearing and the lung capacity to blow over an army and the mightily strong Albrecht.
Filming was hard on the actors. Former fellow Python Eric Idle said that it was madness to be in any of Gilliam’s film, while Sarah Polley, the nine year old who played Sally Salt, said that she’d found it very traumatic to be close to so many explosions and had been forced to spend long periods immersed in freezing water during long working days.
The film was highly praised, winning a number of BAFTAs and receiving four Academy Award nominations. Sadly, audiences weren’t nearly as impressed and they avoided the film.