Did you know that God is alive and lives in Brussels with his daughter?
‘The Brand New Testament’ is a comical religious satire, taking place in Brussels in Belgium where God lives with his wife and 10 year old daughter Ea. The version of God in ‘The Brand New Testament’ is a grumpy individual who seemingly created humans to torment for his own amusement by making up menial rules to antagonise and frustrate. This is all explained in a terrific opening that introduces us to the film’s setting and premise whilst delivering plenty of laughs as we watch God make up a series of decrees to irritate the human population. The human population are of course blissfully unaware of this until Ea takes matters into her own hands, breaks into her father’s office and releases everyone’s death dates via text message. It’s a fascinating premise and ‘The Brand New Testament’ mostly delivers on its promise.
After releasing the death dates, Ea locks the computer and escapes the apartment via a laundry chute into the outside world. Her mission is to create a better world, by writing a Brand New Testament that moves away from the bitter approach of her father. To do this, she sets out to find six new apostles and the majority of the film’s runtime concerns her interactions with these vastly different people who she uses as her blueprint for the future. Like many films that split themselves into segments, some sequences are more successful than others. From a personal point of view, the darker and more blackly comedic moments were the strongest alongside the sharpest religious satire, but ‘The Brand New Testament’ does also get mileage out of some of the emotional moments that resonate powerfully.
Whilst Ea seeks out these people, her father gradually realises that he’s been left powerless by Ea’s actions and he too sets off through the laundry chute to find her. There’s a certain irony at play as God’s rude approach means that no one is willing to help him out and when he realises his passage back to the apartment has gone he goes through a series of unfortunate, but deserved events. Ea is played by Pili Groyne and her performance is a perfect blend of sweetness and strength as she takes control of her situation. Catherine Deneuve is perhaps the best known of the supporting cast and she does strong work in one of the weaker story segments, whilst I particularly enjoyed Marco Lorenzini as the homeless scribe Victor and the entertaining chemistry he builds up with Groyne (particularly when talking about Jean Claude Van Damme movies!).
‘The Brand New Testament’ is a quirky comedy drama with a terrific premise and whilst the satire doesn’t always hit the mark, there’s enough laughs and revelations here to make this a really enjoyable movie.
Directed By: Jaco Van Dormael
Starring: Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, François Damiens, Yolande Moreau, Pili Groyne, Laura Verlinden, Serge Larivière, David Murgia, Johan Leysen, Pascal Duquenne, Viviane De Muynck and Johan Heldenbergh