After his introduction to British comedy in the form of the Monty Python show, Terry Gilliam branched out into films. This is his latest and as with some of his other films, audiences will be divided into loyal followers and the baffled who give up.
Fans of Brazil will see a number of connections with this film, the individual who is and is not part of society, working diligently – to what purpose? Here he is Qohen, living and working alone in what seems to be an empty and dilapidated church, with religious symbols and icons of including a crucifix with its head missing and substituted by a surveillance camera.
He works at his computer, always answering the phone in the hopes of this being the call which will change his life. He talks to himself and to others, referring to himself as We rather than I.
When he goes out to work, he finds a bizarre city, vehicles recognisable, people in a hurry, but a world surrounded by billboards, huge hoardings, commercials which are spoken out loud, inviting customers to spend – and with the heading 'enough is never enough.'
Qohen goes to work where he is supervised by Joby (David Thewliss) and asks if he can work at home for his health and better productivity. He goes to see Management, Matt Damon, in oddly patterned suits, who agrees. And then he spends a whole year in his hideaway, never going out.
But that does not mean he does not communicate. Those concerned about his mental health have arranged that an 'online shrink' will give him advice – played by Tilda Swinton with a Scots accent. He is also caught up, virtually, with a beautiful young woman that he saw at the company party and who helped him when he was choking on a seed.
She takes him away to a fantasy world, a tropical beach where he becomes more human, attracted to her, and being rescued when he sinks to the bottom of the water.
Gilliam has given her the name Bainsley, odd for a character played by the French actress, Melanie Thierry. Does she really exist or, as she often appears provocatively on his computer screen, is she only virtual?
For the Gilliam enthusiasts, worth a second look.
- Peter Malone, ACOFB
Starring Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedges, Matt Damon, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton. Directed by Terry Gilliam.105 minutes. Rated M.