A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)
Directed by Peter Greenaway

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * *

DVD In Association with
Rent DVDs online!
In the USA:
Try Netflix For Free.In the UK:

The wives of twin brothers Oswald and Oliver Deuce are killed in a car accident involving a swan. Soon thereafter, the brothers become obsessed with death, begin filming the corpses of animals decaying, and initiate sexual relationships with Alba Bewick, who had been driving the car in which their wives had been riding when they were killed and who lost both her legs in the accident.

Peter Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts, while not among the director's best, is, nevertheless, a gorgeous, evocative film, and its themes of death, of man's absurd reactions to death, and of the beauty of both are skillfully handled. Greenaway is consistently able to arouse profound feelings in the viewer and has so created a fascinating and impressive work of art.


Death is presented in the movie as horrid and beautiful and as sorrowful and comic. The efforts of Oswald and Oliver to procure the corpses of animals for their hideously lovely films are, for example, frequently shown in an overtly humorous manner. Their machinations parody the conventions with which plots and intrigues are presented in cinema, and the reactions of the owner of the zoo from which the animals are being taken are depicted in a clever, winking manner clearly intended to amuse. Such comic touches remind the viewer of the complexity of human beings' reactions to death and help to elicit many of the diverse feelings with which men confront the end of life. They also serve to suggest to the viewer the absurdity of those reactions and the strangeness of much of our existence.


In fact, a substantial part of the film focuses on depictions or relations of the peculiar or quirky. Characters tell one another odd stories. Strange images are shown. Various bizarre incidents transpire. Persons hold eccentric, often humorous conversations, and so on. What is more, Greenaway presents these absurdities in such a way that the viewer is able to appreciate their beauty as strange things. The ridiculousness of existence is brought to our attention so that, despite its terribleness, we are made to laugh.


Such qualities do not, however, exhaust the list of the film's virtues. The actors, for instance, universally acquit themselves well. While some portray overtly ludicrous characters and others provide a sense of dignity, all, either directly, implicitly, or by contrast, contribute to the film's overall sense of strangeness and, consequently, enhance the movie's aesthetic impact.


Greenaway is able to evoke a potent sense of tragedy with his film, but he mingles that sense with so much humor that the viewer is made to experience, simultaneously, both delight and sadness. A Zed & Two Noughts is, as a result, a peculiar, delicious, and beautiful movie.

Review by Keith Allen

Home Page / Alphabetical List of Films
List of Films by Star Ratings
Aesthetic Principles / Guide to Ratings
Criteria for Inclusion / DVD Stores / Blog

© 2004 Keith Allen. All rights reserved.
Revised 2005

Click Here

banner 2