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Interview: Terry Gilliam Talks The Zero Theorem

The extraordinary and imaginative Terry Gilliam brings to the Venice Film Festival his latest science fiction feature ‘The Zero Theorem.’ The main character, Qohen Leth is an eccentric and reclusive computer genius who lives in an Orwellian corporate world and suffers from existential angst, waiting for a phone call that will tell him the meaning of life. He works for a shadowy figure known as Management, to solve the Zero Theorem: a mathematical formula which will finally determine whether life has any meaning.

The director discusses the making of his film, in competition at 2013’s Venice Film Festival:

In ‘The Zero Theorem’ there’s a strong sense of how technology dominates the characters’ lives and there’s a substantial need to disconnect, what is your personal idea of how technology affects our lives?

I find technology incredible, we can use it to find the answers we are looking for and find almost anything we want. But when it consumes too much of our own life, and we disappear into it, because there’s always more to discover, then comes the time to stop and disconnect. Not to forget that as we get information on the web, the MI6 (Section 6 of the Secret Intelligence Service) gets all the information on us.

What is your relationship with social media?

I use Facebook to promote what I do. I don’t reply to anyone who tries to contact me, I’m very selfish, but I simply use it as a tool of exposure.

This is a science fiction movie, what is your approach in this kind of setting?

It’s totally elementary. I’m not interested in making technology or science-fiction the main focus of my storytelling. What interests me are the people and the relationships between them. Hence I focus on casting the best actors I can. The rest is purely decorative.

You chose to have Christoph Waltz shave his hair off in the film, just like Bruce Willis in ‘12 Monkeys,’ is there a reason for these recurring bald characters?

I like the clean look. Besides I made Christoph shave also his eyebrows, to eliminate “eyebrow acting” which I hate.

What is your personal opinion of 3D?

My impression is that it was invented to force people to buy new television sets and to make films more expensive, but there again I gave into Computer Graphics since there are 250 shots in the movie that I made with CG.

Your films are often produced on a low budget, how does this affect your creativity?

Having a restricted budget forces me to be more inventive. This has prevented me from becoming a mediocre big budget film-maker which was what I always wanted to be from the beginning of my career.

Terry Gilliam The Zero Theorem

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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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