A Zed & Two Noughts

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A Zed & Two Noughts
A Zed and Two Noughts poster.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Peter Greenaway
Produced by Kees Kasander
Peter Sainsbury
Written by Peter Greenaway
Starring Andréa Ferréol
Brian Deacon
Eric Deacon
Frances Barber
Joss Ackland
Music by Michael Nyman
Cinematography Sacha Vierny
Distributed by Artificial Eye (UK),
Skouras Pictures (US)
Release dates 4 October 1985
Running time 115 min
Country United Kingdom
Netherlands
Language English

A Zed & Two Noughts is a 1985 film written and directed by Peter Greenaway. This film was Greenaway's first with cinematography by Sacha Vierny, who went on to shoot virtually all of Greenaway's work in the 1980s and 1990s, until Vierny's death; Vierny was referred to by Greenaway as his "most important collaborator".[1]

Plot[edit]

Twin zoologists Oswald and Oliver Deuce (Brian Deacon and Eric Deacon) are at work studying the behaviour of animals at a zoo, when their wives are killed in a car accident involving a large swan. The woman who was driving the car, Alba Bewick (Andréa Ferréol), is not killed, but has a leg amputated.

Venus de Milo (Frances Barber), a woman associated with the zoo, attempts to forge a relationship with the twins, ostensibly to help them recover from their loss. Meanwhile, Oswald and Oliver gradually become obsessed with images of growth and decay, watching videos on the origins of life and creating time-lapse video of decomposing life forms. They begin this latter task with a green apple, bitten into and rotting before their camera lens.

The twins' descent sees them become romantically involved with Alba, and increasingly attached to one another. Venus de Milo remains involved with them enough to observe their obsessions grow: they take to video-taping the decomposition of prawns, and they take a personal interest in Alba's childhood, going so far as to ask her to show them a field seen in a photograph on her bedside table. They become obsessed with snails, and they take advantage of their contacts at the zoo to create decomposition videos of more and more complex animals, moving gradually up the food chain. Some sections of the film are narrated by David Attenborough, whose involvement makes the film resemble a wildlife documentary.[2]

Alba becomes a subject for the experiments of her surgeon, who eventually amputates her other leg, claiming it is putting stress on her spine. His true motive is to fashion Alba into a subject of his recreations of Johannes Vermeer paintings; Venus de Milo participates in this process, as well.

Ultimately, the Deuce brothers' obsession with decay leads them to the top of the food chain, and to a complex life-and-death negotiation with Alba herself. The brothers' project seems the only possible emotional investment for either of them, so Alba offers herself as the final specimen to be photographed in its decay. However, her family intervenes before the brothers can claim her, so they are forced to find another way to create their final time-lapse video. They do so by returning to the field of Alba's childhood and setting up the necessary equipment to facilitate and capture their own decomposition. However, a huge infestation of snails covers the equipment and bodies, and finally shorts out the electrical system, rendering all their labours for naught.

Reception[edit]

The film gained a mixed reaction.[3][4]

Soundtrack[edit]

A Zed & Two Noughts
Original UK cover
Soundtrack album by Michael Nyman
Released 1985
Genre Contemporary classical music, film scores, minimalism
Length 41:25
Label TER (UK)
Virgin Venture, Caroline (USA)
Producer David Cunningham
Michael Nyman chronology
The Kiss and Other Movements
1985
A Zed & Two Noughts
1985
And Do They Do/Zoo Caprices
1986
A Zed And Two Noughts
Copyright 1990 Virgin Venture

Elements of Michael Nyman's score invoke the "Dies Irae" section from Heinrich Ignaz Biber's Requiem ex F con terza minore. The Angelfish Decay/Swan Rot/L'Escargot theme was originally written for Childs Play, a dance work commissioned by Lucinda Childs. Performance of the soundtrack is credited to Nyman, Alexander Balanescu, Elisabeth Perry, Sarah Leonard and "The Zoo Orchestra". While the score is in the Michael Nyman Band's repertoire, particularly "Time Lapse" and "Prawn Watching", they do not perform on the soundtrack.

Track listing[edit]

  1. Angelfish Decay
  2. Car Crash
  3. Time Lapse
  4. Prawn Watching
  5. Bisocosis Populi
  6. Swan Rot
  7. Delft Waltz
  8. Up for Crabs
  9. Vermeer's Wife
  10. Venus de Milo
  11. Lady in the Red Hat
  12. L'Escargot

The album was issued on compact disc in the United States 4 June 1991, with a new cover featuring Ferreol in-between the Deacons in bed, and the title spelled A Zed And Two Noughts. The original LP cover showed a zebra in a cage, as does the UK CD. A digitally remastered edition was released in the United States with the 1991 cover on 29 March 2004.

References[edit]

External links[edit]