Monday, November 1, 2010

A Zed and Two Noughts

I will start at the title: A Zed and Two Noughts. It is easily translated to ZOO. This happens to be the location of much of the film. But, the film follows the grieving process of two twins, Oswald and Oliver (two more noughts?). Already the film is playing games. And within the first five minutes: the twins both lose their wives in a car accident. The black car, driven by Alba Bewick (pronounced Buick), crashes into a white swan on a street named Swann's Way. How wicked and playful. And all within the first few minutes.

And, what of the prostitute, Venus di Milo? She tells dirty stories involving animals and hopes to be published some day. And a doctor obsessed with Alba as the perfect work of art. And a color blind zoo keeper hoping to form the first zoo of only black and white animals. And, poor Alba, convinced her leg is lonely since the loss of one... why not rid oneself of the other?

Greenaway has created one of the great darkly humorous films.

A Greenaway film is most successful when made up of three elements: Peter Greenaway (as writer/director), Michael Nyman (as composer), and Sacha Vierny (as cinematographer). This is Greenaway's third (technically) film and the first time all three men work together for a film. All that I found fantastic about The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is taking place throughout this film. Vierny has created a world that glows with colors from off camera, a world of the most surreal scenes. Nyman's score is classical and up to date all at the same time. These elements have never fallen together so perfectly in one place.

The plot? Twin brothers attempt to understand the loss of their wives. They seek to understand meaning in life. They do this through a series of experiments. They begin to photograph the decaying process of things (apples, prawns, dogs, etc). The eventual goal... a human. They can't come to terms with the images of their wives bodies decay. They need to see in order to believe. In order to understand. There is something quite disturbing about this need. But, at the same time, very easily understood. What do we become? How do we become that? And, why? What purpose did we have? The existential nature of the twins journey is bold.

I have a few Greenaway films yet to view, but I imagine A Zed and Two Noughts is his masterpiece.


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