Dir. Gyula Nemes | Hungary | 2015 | 83 mins
The sole narrative feature screening at this year’s festival, Zero is a singular mind-meltingly absurdist trip that demands to be seen up late on the big screen. Inspired by Einstein’s famous quote that: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left,” director Gyula Nemes offers an at times witty, sex-fuelled and completely off-the-wall vision of one man’s bizarro-battle to save our bees.
Set in the not-too-distant future, the near-extinction of bees has left society on the brink of implosion. With scarcely a hive in sight, we follow a man known only as N, the director of a honey manufacturing plant who must now peddle a purely artificial product. One day, after an incident involving an actual bee, N tastes real honey for the first time and his life is irrevocably altered. With a newfound apian affixation, N and his partner L embark on a outlandish quest to bring down everything that might endanger their beloved bees. N & L target genetically modified crops, media conglomerates and corporate lackeys. Quickly drawing the ire of the local authorities, like an environmentally activated Bonnie and Clyde, their actions grow increasingly radical and unhinged.
Formally inventive, Zero is an endearing homage to a range of diverse cinematic styles; infusing elements of silent-cinema, melodrama, hard-bodied action tropes and even African ethnographic road film. This method of collage also extends to the films incendiary art design, featuring experiments with black-and-white and colour material, comic-strip inserts and madcap sonic flourishes in a film mostly devoid of dialogue. Like nothing you have seen before or are likely to see again, shot on sumptuous 35mm and starring renowned cult actor Udo Kier, Zero offers a whimsical yet playfully intelligent take on our society of consumption, ecological utopias and inevitable natural disasters.