Terry Gilliam • Director
“A good way of looking at the future is to look at the past”
- After the Venice premiere of his latest film, The Zero Theorem, Terry Gilliam gave a press conference, where he spoke of the disintegration of human relationships in the virtual world
After the Venice premiere of his latest film, The Zero Theorem [+see also:
interview: Terry Gilliam
film profile], which is vying for the Golden Lion, the former member of the Monty Python gave a good humoured press conference, in the presence of his main actress, Mélanie Thierry. He spoke of the disintegration of human relationships in the virtual world.
Terry Gilliam readily accepts the notion that his new work may be considered as the last part of a dystopic trilogy, after Brazil and Twelve Monkeys: “We think in terms of trilogies because it seems more intellectual, but it is true that the film is more strongly related to Brazil than I initially thought. The difference is that it feels very present, because since I started working on it, the future has caught up with us. The question the film asks is very current: do we have real relationships anymore? (...) I'm just trying to look at the world: how many relationship are virtual now?”
The director also knows to look back: “A good way of looking at the future is to look at the past. Before, there was religion, but it doesn't work anymore. Is our new faith technology? (...) I don't see myself as a geek, yet in the morning when I sit in front of my computer, I find myself seduced by the screen, and my wife says she wonders what I have become.”
At the same time, “the more connected we are to the world, the more we can understand it,” says Gilliam, who speaks of a Damocles sword but adds that it is "double-edged, at the same time dangerous and exciting.” After all, he adds, “the Arab Spring was possible because young people could communicate, even though now we see that what they fought against is regaining control.”
Further expanding on the core subject of his film, the British visionnary explains: “I look at it like this: we have access to all kinds of information, and yet we're still separated. I find it fascinating that people hide behind false names. That's the only way a lot of young people can communicate with each other. I believe it has to do with advertising, where people are presented as beautiful gods and goddesses. But we're not like that. So how do you communicate with others if they expect you to be perfect?”
Asked about the paradox embodied by the character of Leth Qohen (Waltz), who is still an idealist but has also completely surrendered to the corporate world, Gilliam points out: “It is clear he had a life before, but he's been damaged and hides from it all and now he's unable to have a complete relationship in the real world. (...) Now he just does his job without asking questions. The corporate world consumes us so much that we don't ask questions, all the while remaining somewhat idealistic. I still haven't resolved the contradiction.”
On shooting the film in Bucharest, Gilliam underlines how much cheaper it was and how much value for money he gained from it on screen : “At the Chinese market there, you can buy fabric by the weight. It is horrible to wear, but it looks great on screen. (...) We were just a group of people lost in the real world, trying to make a surreal movie. In Bucharest, there are no safety nets, but we also had total freedom. We were not repressed, or oppressed, or any kind of –pressed. It was great.”
(Translated from French)
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