A Zed & Two Noughts

Synopsis: Identical twins Oliver and Oswald Deuce lose their wives in a car crash caused by a white swan. The brothers, who are zoologists, become obsessed with the death and decay of animals. They both have a relationship with Alba, the driver of the crashed car, who loses first one leg then the other. When Alba dies, the twins film their own death.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director(s): Peter Greenaway
Production: Wellspring Media Inc.
Rotten Tomatoes:
115 min

A swan?

What sort of a swan?

Leda? Who is Leda?

Is she the injured woman?

Laid by whom?

By Jupiter? Was that the cause of death?

A female swan?

How do you know it was female?

Eggs? Egg-bound?

Was it bald? Perhaps it was a goose.

Did it come from the zoo?

How fast

does a woman decompose?

Six months. Maybe a year.

Depends on the conditions.

Does being pregnant

make any difference?


And the baby?

- How far gone was she?

- Perhaps 10 weeks.

Then, you'd never know.

I cannot stand the idea

of her rotting away.

What is the first thing that happens?

The first thing that happens is the

bacteria set to work in the intestine.

- What sort of bacteria?

- Bisocosis populi.

There are supposed to be

130,000 bisocosis

in each lick of a human tongue.

250,000 in a French kiss.

First exchange at the very beginning

of creation when Adam kissed Eve.

- Suppose Eve kissed Adam?

- Unlikely!

She used her first 100,000 on the apple.

If the

evolutionary span of life on Earth

is represented by a year of 365 days,

then man made his first appearance

on the evening of the 31st of December,

just as the daylight was fading.

It had taken some 4,000 million years

for that entrance to be made.

A very slow,

uneven progress of life forms,

changing and evolving in a long,

continuous procession.

It's comparatively easy to comprehend

how one species gave way to another.

But perhaps more difficult to understand

the evolutionary leap necessary

to bridge the most sophisticated

of the apes, with man.

And more difficult, still,

to contemplate

how life could create itself,

apparently, out of nothing.

The conditions

for the origin of life on Earth

can never be reproduced again.

The atmosphere is now rich in oxygen,

the necessary ingredient

for the respiratory life of all animals.

But in the beginning

there was little or no oxygen.

There was methane, ammonia,

carbon monoxide, water,

electrical storms, ultraviolet light,

the first carbon compounds.

And around volcanic springs like these,

an abundance of hydrogen.

These conditions were advantageous

for the formation of the first

cyanophytes or blue-green algae.

Their utilisation of hydrogen in water,

using chlorophyll

in the process of photosynthesis

liberated oxygen in abundant quantities

to change radically

the atmosphere of the Earth.

Their arrival marks a major step

towards the evolution

of higher forms of life.

How are you feeling?

Short of a leg.

In the land of the legless,

the one-legged woman is queen.

There was a legless whore in Marseilles

during the war, who was very wealthy.

She seldom left her bed,

because she couldn't.

She'd had both her legs

amputated at the groin.

Imagine that, gentlemen,

no limbs to hinder entry.

She was treated

with great affection and regard

and had a great many lovers.

She died young.

Some of her lovers thought,

she might liked to be buried

in a short coffin.

Others thought that the empty space

should be filled with flowers.

In the end, of course,

her family turned up

and they had the corpse

fitted with artificial legs.

Imagine that!

The body, in all its delicious detail,

fading away,

leaving a skeleton with iron legs.

Especially, since the legs had been made

for a man called Felipe Arc-en-Ciel.

You've been very thorough

in your research.

I made it up.

I have now to find a Felipe Arc-en-Ciel

to stop my crying,

to discover what it is to have

your legs borrowed by a dead woman.

- How is your daughter?

- Beta is fine.

She says, my leg has walked off

with a Dutchman.

- Morning, Venus! How are the zebras?

- Black and white.

Good morning, Milo, what are you doing?

Just come to see if you're

looking after the animals properly.

You can come and take care of me.

- Where could I do that?

- Back of the panda cages.

We might give them

a little encouragement.

There's no bed there.

- Since when have you needed a bed, Milo?

- Since my back ached, just now!

I'll give you...


and two pounds of zebra steak.

Do the owls go hungry for your pleasure?

Not yours.

Owls aren't that fussy.

They'll eat anything, even a lizard.

Would you rather have a lizard

or a zebra afterbirth?

Tell me, Milo!

Do you think a zebra

is a white animal with black stripes

or a black animal with white stripes?

Carry my shoes for me.

There used to be a bed in the back

of the vulture cages.

Ah! You were younger then.

Now you have less to bargain with.

- Now I have experience.

- With animals?

All right, then!

I'll give you four pounds of cow's liver

and a drink.

Or we might have to see about

your licence to practise.

You only have to have a licence

to start a zoo, not to stock it.

You could start a zoo, Hoyten.

Though you'd have to pay me to visit it.

You can keep your free meat.

I'll take 10 for half an hour

and the tail feathers

of an American bald eagle.

- You're making a hat?

- No.

I'm writing a dirty story.

We don't have an American bald eagle.

Oh, I was forgetting,

it's a black and white bird.

Then I'll settle for an introduction

to Oliver and Oswald.

What do you want with them?

I could help.

Their wives have died and I need a bath.

You can have a bath,

provided I can watch.

Surprise, surprise!

That's what all we animals

are here for, isn't it?

In a spoonful of pond water,

there may be as many as

10,000 minute organisms.

In the seas there are uncountable

numbers of creatures.

Myriads of simply structured organisms,

whose ancestors began to appear some,

2,000 million years ago

from among the primitive bacteria

and the first algae.

Oliver, I'm sorry about your bad news.

Can the zoo help?

- What are you watching?

- The beginnings of life.

- It's cathartic.

- What is?

Watching life begin.

- Yes?

- Yes!

'Cause I know how it ends.

- How does it end?

- With a swan.

- Oh, yes.

- And a white car,

a Ford Mercury,

registration number, NID26BW,

driven by a woman with flaming red hair,

surrounded by white feathers,

called Alba Bewick.

Then I'm sorry that

you'll find this film inaccurate.

Oh, don't ruin it for me, Fallast.

I'm going to take it in stages.

Needs absorbing.

I'm sure I must have got it wrong before

and I'm on the lookout for clues.

What sort of clues?

Gonna try and separate the true clues

and the red herrings.

I'm told, that all eight parts

of the second copy of this film

are out on loan as well.

Perhaps someone else

is also looking for red herrings.

Myriads of simply-structured organisms,

whose ancestors began to appear some,

2,000 million years ago

from among the primitive bacteria

and the first algae.

Protozoa, primitive jellyfish,

sponges, coral polyps, colonisers.

Innumerable individuals

making the first oceans a rich soup,

ripe for the further and more

sophisticated development of life forms.

Oliver, entrez!

- Where is Oswald?

- Uh, he's just working.

Work consoles him, I think.

How did you first know my wife?

I met her at the zoo with my daughter,

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Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway, CBE (born 5 April 1942 in Newport, Wales) 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. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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