Abel Ferrara does as Abel Ferrara does in Zeros and Ones. A film that actively tries to confuse and isolate you from what is happening on the screen. However, somehow something is mystifying that keeps you watching.
Called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, soldier J.J. (Hawke) desperately seeks news of his imprisoned rebel brother, Justin (also Hawke). The latter holds knowledge that could thwart the attack—navigating the capital’s darkened streets, J.J. races to a series of ominous encounters, hoping to keep the Vatican from being blown to bits.
There are things you expect in a film, a prologue and epilogue by the lead actor as himself about the film and filmmaker is not one of them. But, after all, this is an Abel Ferrara film, and to expect a normally structured film is rather foolish. Here in Zeros and Ones, we never have a single moment of something that remotely feels like a concrete idea.
We drift here and there and through in our eyes, unfinished ideas left to conjure up what we think may have happened or what it may have meant. It feels like a Ferrara had a vivid dream and somehow remembered enough of it to write it down and viola, Zeros and Ones everyone.
Need a further example? Sure, well, at one point, J.J. is captured and taken to a hotel room, where he sets up his camera and gets his freedom. He has to have sex with one of the women who captured him and make sure that he does his best to “knock her up” and that the man in the corner is a doctor who can use advanced medicine to tell if he has been successful… So what? This head-scratcher of a film keeps going, throwing in situations here and there.
Hawke does a good job with his characters, but given the feel of the film, you only really remember how worn down and weary his characters are, wanting the end to come for everyone else, or even just themselves. The empty streets of Rome are wonderfully shot and are possibly the main standout from the film. Sean Price Williams captures the empty loneliness of the pandemic that hit Rome so well with the darkness increasingly shrouding the screen. The low-light quality adds that extra mood that is required here in the film and allows us to fully envelope ourselves into Hawkes J.J.
Foolishness would have you think that if there were enough of a budget and a structure and, well, anything that makes this film become more like a traditional film, then there would be something better here. As it is, we are just left with our mouths opening further as what we can only imagine scriptless film meanders on towards.
Yet, somehow in Zeroes and Ones, Ferrara has left us unable to stop watching. He has a clear vision of what he wanted this film to be. He just never decided to explain it to the rest of us. So, you will be sitting there long after the credits have finished wondering what exactly it all meant, or maybe you grasped it right away, seeing as to who the director is and how familiar his themes have been of late.
However, almost magically, there is a form of hope present towards the end. Or is it all a taunt to show us what we had once before but will never have again due to the troubling times in the world? Regardless, this is an experience; whether it is good or bad probably depends on you as a viewer.
Signature Entertainment presents Zeros and Ones on Digital Platforms 7th March & DVD 4th April.
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