Ben Oliver

Now
Banner image for Zeros and Ones
film

Zeros and Ones

Why don’t people set themselves on fire anymore?
12 December 2023

A US soldier (Ethan Hawke) stationed in Rome during lockdown tries to uncover a plot to blow up the Vatican and discover the whereabouts of his brother, who might have information he needs.

I’m not going to try and pretend that this makes any kind of sense, but Ferrara’s paranoid grainy digital nightmare of a film did somehow connect with me. It’s bookended unusually by two videos of Hawke explaining how he came to the film, his excitement to be in it, and his feelings after the credits roll. He also confesses to being somewhat bewildered by the script.

The film uses the lockdown conditions to its advantage, with the completely empty streets of Rome providing a haunting backdrop to the events. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how Ferrara shot and made this so soon into lockdown, a time where I was busy figuring out how many games of gin rummy I’d lost to my wife for weeks on end.

Zeros and Ones is more of a mood than a story. It takes a certain degree of trust and fearlessness for films like this to get made and long may it continue.