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 byKees 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 date
4 October 1985
Running time
115 minutes
Country United Kingdom

A Zed & Two Noughts is a 1985 film written and directed by Peter Greenaway. This film was Greenaway's first collaboration with cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who went on to shoot virtually all of Greenaway's work in the 1980s and 1990s, until Vierny's death. Greenaway referred to Vierny as his "most important collaborator". [1] The film is a rumination on life, love, bad sex, doubling, man's mistreatment of animals, artifice vs. the life force and the inevitability of birth, death and decay.

The following is an overview of events in 1985 in film, including the highest-grossing films, award ceremonies and festivals, a list of films released and notable deaths.

Film sequence of images that give the impression of movement

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photoplay, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen, create the illusion of moving images.

Peter Greenaway British film director

Peter Greenaway, is a British film director, screenwriter, and artist. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular. Common traits in his film are the scenic composition and illumination and the contrasts of costume and nudity, nature and architecture, furniture and people, sexual pleasure and painful death.



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 which crashes through the car windscreen. The woman who was driving the car, Alba Bewick (Andréa Ferréol), is not killed, but has a leg amputated.

Brian Deacon is an English actor. Although he appeared in films such as The Triple Echo (1972) and Vampyres (1974), he is perhaps best known for portraying Jesus in the 1979 film Jesus, which was made by the evangelical organization the Jesus Film Project. Deacon was chosen for the part out of a field of 263 actors screen tested by producer John Heyman. Deacon has also portrayed Heumac in The Feathered Serpent, Frank Miles in the 1978 TV series Lillie, and appeared with his brother, Eric, in the Peter Greenaway film, A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), as Oswald Deuce. Between 1992 and 1993, he played the role of The Rt Hon. Neil Kincaid in British soap opera Emmerdale, the lover of established character Kim Tate.

Eric Deacon is an English actor perhaps best known for his role in the 1985 film A Zed & Two Noughts, directed by Peter Greenaway, in which he acted alongside his brother Brian.

Andréa Ferréol French actress

Andréa Ferréol is a French actress and officer of the Ordre national du Mérite (2009).

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.

Frances Barber is an English actress. She received Olivier Award nominations for her work in the plays Camille (1985), and Uncle Vanya (1997). Her film appearances include three collaborations with Gary Oldman in Prick Up Your Ears (1987), We Think the World of You (1988) and Dead Fish (2005), as well as Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), Soft Top Hard Shoulder (1992), and Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017). Barber's numerous television credits include The Street (2009), Doctor Who (2011), and Silk (2012–14).

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. Excerpts from Sir David Attenborough's TV series Life on Earth, including his narration, are featured in the film. [2]

David Attenborough British broadcaster and naturalist

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. He is a former senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K.

<i>Life on Earth</i> (TV series) television series

Life on Earth: A Natural History by David Attenborough is a British television natural history series made by the BBC in association with Warner Bros. and Reiner Moritz Productions. It was transmitted in the UK from 16 January 1979.

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.

Johannes Vermeer 17th-century Dutch painter

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

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. A huge infestation of snails covers the equipment and bodies, however, and finally shorts out the electrical system, halting their grand project.


Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland, CBE is an English actor who has appeared in more than 130 film and television roles. He was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for portraying Jock Delves Broughton in White Mischief (1987).

Jim Davidson English comedian and television host

James Cameron Davidson is an English comedian and presenter. His highest profile roles came on television when he hosted Big Break and The Generation Game. He is also a stand-up comedian and writer, developing adult pantomime shows such as Boobs in the Wood and Sinderella, both of which have played to sell-out audiences.

Gerard Thoolen Dutch actor

Gerardus Bernardus Marie Cornelis (Gerard) Thoolen was a Dutch stage and film actor best known for his role in the film Private Resistance (1985).


The film received generally positive reviews, holding a 79% on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. [3] Philip French of The Observer wrote, "The energy is immense, the appearance of the film consistently sleek and visually exciting." Jonathan Rosenbaum considers it to be "the boldest and arguably the best of Peter Greenaway's fiction features". [4] [ unreliable source? ] Not all reviews were positive, however. [5] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "pretentious, humorless and, worst of all, more boring than a retrospective devoted to television weather forecasts delivered over a 30-year period at 11 P.M., Eastern standard time." [6]


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

Elements of Michael Nyman's score invoke the "Dies Irae" section from Heinrich Ignaz Franz 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

  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 on 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.

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Michael Nyman English composer of minimalist music, pianist, librettist and musicologist

Michael Laurence Nyman, CBE is an English composer of minimalist music, pianist, librettist and musicologist, known for numerous film scores, and his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion's The Piano. He has written a number of operas, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; Letters, Riddles and Writs; Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs; Facing Goya; Man and Boy: Dada; Love Counts; and Sparkie: Cage and Beyond. He has written six concerti, five string quartets, and many other chamber works, many for his Michael Nyman Band. He is also a performing pianist. Nyman prefers to write opera rather than other forms of music.

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Time-lapse photography technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that used to view the sequence

Time-lapse photography is a technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured is much more spread out than the frequency used to view the sequence. When played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene may be captured at 1 frame per second, but then played back at 30 frames per second; the result is an apparent 30 times speed increase. In a similar manner, film can also be played at a much lower rate than it was captured at, slowing down an otherwise fast action, as in slow motion or high-speed photography.

A zoo is a place where all animals are exhibited.

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Sacha Vierny was a French cinematographer. He was born in Bois-le-Roi, Seine-et-Marne, Île-de-France, France, and died in Paris, France, at the age of 81. He is most famous for his work with Alain Resnais – especially for the two films Hiroshima mon amour and L'année dernière à Marienbad – and with Peter Greenaway.

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  1. Mcgue, Kevin (13 October 2010). "A Zed & Two Noughts Movie Review". A Life At The Movies.
  2. "A Zed and Two Noughts (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  3. "A Zed & Two Noughts" . Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  4. "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Zed' Comes to Naught in Style". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  5. "FILM FESTIVAL; 'Zed and Two Naughts'". The New York Times . Retrieved 2012-06-05.