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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    French, Dutch
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette

A Zed and Two Noughts

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . M15+ . PAL


Is it art or is it pornography? Who cares? Both are good. In Peter Greenaway’s second major film (just barely preceding his most famous film of all, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) he explores numerous themes surrounding death and symmetry. I know I always associate the two…

When twin brothers’ lose their wives in the same car accident, they start up a deeper friendship with the only survivor – the female driver. She’s in hospital and a captive audience as she’s just lost a leg to the crash. As their relationship expands, the woman starts having more and more excised and before you know it, it’s just damn creepy.

"Mon Dieu! My body for a gramophone record and a visit from a pair of Siamese twins!"

While this is going on, the brothers maintain their day job – shooting time lapse photography of what happens to things after they die. As the film progresses it seems to be leading directly to one outcome and I won’t ruin it for you here, but this is what some may term ‘out there’. Personally I didn’t mind the film although it tended to get a little long-winded occasionally, drawing out the conclusion just a little too long to capture the full momentum it was building to. However, this is a dark comedy interspersed with some very dark issues that perhaps aren’t so funny and does manage to garner a laugh or two. A few more wry smiles than laughs though in the long run.

It’s a thinker and deals with delicate subject matter, but for those who’ve enjoyed Greenaway’s other similarly dark films, this sits snugly up against them in both style and wit.


Shot in 1985 in an exquisitely lit manner, this doesn’t look too bad for its age. While there are film artefacts, these tend to fit in quite well with the decay theme so graphically displayed within the movie. The reel markers may be a little too much though. Colours are vivid and solid yet still seem mildly washed out and there’s a bit of wobbling and jittering earlier on. Shadow detail is not the best, unfortunately and with several important night scenes this isn’t the best, while the blacks themselves are murky and unforgiving. The whole shebang is presented here in the cinema aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic corpses.


Dialogue is clear enough here and presented in a fairly solid Dolby Digital stereo delivery. The subwoofer maintains a gentle supporting humming throughout though by the end you’ll wonder if it’s even on at all as it tends to fade away gently into the background.

Michael Nyman has scored the film in his usual expressively melodic way and here his progressive strings are the dominant force supported by sturdy piano. It’s a great score and while I felt The Cook, The Thief has a better overall score, this one is similar and up there anyway.


Just a couple to keep you dramatically chilled with first of all an introduction by the director who discusses the setting and the time and the themes of the film all tied up neatly in 6:40. He speaks very well and is informative and this continues on in his audio commentary. He’s articulate and busy and seems to remember everything every done while making the film. A very detailed and interesting commentary that will no doubt please any Greenaway fans out there.

Excerpts from ?O runs for 6:56 and is a crappy series of (believe it or not) excerpts from ?O. This is the making of and why they haven’t given us the whole thing is no doubt some legal issue but it would have been nicer than this short, poorly transferred horror.

Two trailers for A Zed and Two Noughts and The Draughtsman’s Contract (which fans will know why it is included here). Finally, there’re not one but four Easter eggs which you can read all about in our Easter egg wing of DVDnet.

It’s a fairly astute collection of extra stuff that fills out the disc nicely. Just a shame the making of is delivered so crappily. The Easter eggs make up for it though...


Fans of Greenaway will find this as intense and darkly comic as his other masterworks, however for those uninitiated into his methods, The Cook, The Thief is probably a better introduction. However, A Zed and Two Noughts holds many gems for those willing to dig and although the subject matter at times can be a little hard to watch, it is undeniably fascinating. While this is a good film and certainly interesting for those who like a little more thinking in their films, it does drag on a little toward the end. Don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out though – maybe try renting first and test the water for purchase.

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      And I quote...
    "Is it art or is it pornography? Who cares? Both are good."
    - Jules Faber
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