Terry Gilliam’s New Movie Looks a Lot Like Brazil

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 27 2014 4:22 PM

Terry Gilliam Returns to the Future With Zero Theorem

Christoph Waltz in the trailer for Zero Theorem.
Christoph Waltz in the trailer for Zero Theorem.

Still from Zero Theorem

While his career has had many ups and downs, Terry Gilliam has a pretty consistent track record when it comes to dystopian science fiction. Nearly 20 years ago he directed 12 Monkeys, which was inspired by La Jetée. A decade before that, he wrote and directed Brazil, which faced a troubled release but is now widely regarded as a classic.

Unofficial trailers for his next film have leaked online occasionally over the last several months, but we now finally have what appears to be the first official look at his next dystopian science fiction film: Zero Theorem.

For fans of Brazil, Zero Theorem looks like a welcome return to that movie’s brand of surreal sci-fi satire. Once again we have a man stuck in a dystopian bureaucratic nightmare, buried under absurd work, and dreaming of a woman who might represent his deliverance. Gilliam seems to be paying homage to some of his own influences, too: Star Christoph Waltz is shown floating naked through space in the fetal position, looking like the “starchild” from 2001, and at one point he wears a sleeping mask straight out of La Jetée.

In addition to Waltz—whom it’s nice to see starring outside of a Quentin Tarantino movie—the movie features Ben Whishaw and Tilda Swinton, otherworldly presences who should fit right into the bizarre universe of Gilliam’s imagination. As someone who’s enjoyed going there before, I’m excited to take another trip.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. Email him at Forrest.Wickman@slate.com.