The Zero Theorem – Cinefex 140 Extract

by Graham Edwards

"The Zero Theorem - Nowhere Man" by Joe Fordham - Cinefex 140

In this second peek into our brand new issue, Cinefex 140, we look at The Zero Theorem, in which neurotic computer genius (Christoph Waltz) – employed by a vast futuristic company named Mancrom – attempts to find a mathematical formula that may lead to the meaning of life, but instead falls in love with a beautiful avatar (Mélanie Thierry) and slowly loses his mind.

Filmmaker Terry Gilliam brings his idiosyncratic visual flair to create a nightmarish technological world and phantasmagoric landscapes working with production designer David Warren, special effects supervisor Nick Allder, and visual effects supervisors Felix Lepadatu, Jonah Loop and Fredrik Nord at LenscareFX, Haymaker, The Chimney Pot Group and Bold Turtle Productions.

In the following extract from Joe Fordham’s in-depth article, Nowhere Man, Gilliam and special effects supervisor discuss the creation of one of the film’s most dramatic sets:

“The script description of the Neural Net Mainframe was a slick, high-tech room typical of sci-fi films,” Terry Gilliam recalled. “I thought, ‘Nah,’ and we went looking for locations. I had seen a photograph of a disused steel factory a couple of hours outside Bucharest. We went there, and in the middle of this room was this great round ridiculous-looking blast furnace that had a huge hole in its side. It was a horrible, awful thing, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s much more fun!’ They talked me out of shooting there – we would have been there in the middle of winter, so it would have been a bit mad. And Dave Warren built a set of just more than a half round section of this structure. Everything else was greenscreen. It was my version of Metropolis.”

The Mainframe set consisted of a 1/5-horizontal slice of a central cylinder, with a gantry, walkway and multi-screen workstation. “We had colored liquids containing UV pigment bubbling through the set,” said special effects supervisor Nick Allder. “We lit those to give Terry some in-camera interactive glows. We also rigged a large mechanical cylinder that came out of the Mainframe wall like a big piston. That was on a carriage, and a pneumatic mechanism pushed that out, pulled it back in and rotated it.”

Read the complete article in Cinefex 140, which also features Interstellar, Exodus: Gods and Kings and a Q&A with Amalgamated Dynamics.

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