God exists and he resides in Belgium. That’s the briefest premise I can provide for The Brand New Testament, the latest from director Jaco Van Dormael. Despite what our cultures may have taught us, God is not the man behind miracles and the ten commandments. Instead, he dedicates himself to writing the rules of the universe. When the queue next to you always seems to move faster, that’s God. When the toast lands butter side down, that’s God and when you awake with the need for ten more minutes, God’s to thank. This grubby, greasy creator lives in a three bedroom apartment in Brussels with his subordinate wife and his rebellious and resentful ten year old daughter. Their son’s absence is felt by all members of the family and all mourn the loss of “JC” in different ways. When God’s daughter takes matters into her own hands, the fate of all humanity is dramatically changed. Releasing the death dates of all residents of planet earth, God’s youngest and so far undocumented, child gives humankind the power to really live. No longer bound by the ignorance of their immortal unawareness, everyone begins to embrace the time they have left. The lord’s youngest then sets out on a mission of her own, following in her beloved brother’s footsteps. On a mission to find 6 of her own apostles, she meets a number of individuals who have all reacted to the revelation of their remaining time differently. The Brand New Testament is for fans of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and has the charm of Amélie and shares many similarities with Micmacs. More than anything else, The Brand New Testament reminded me of Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) with its bizarre, existential and comical nature.
Pili Groyne gives a beautiful performance as Ea, the mischievous sister of Christ. Catherine Deneuve demonstrates that she continues to have a taste for the experimental and the unexpected – further proof that she is the greatest European actor of all time whose career knows no limits. A cross between Todd Solondz’s Happiness, Jeunet’s Delicatessen and Judge’s Office Space. It’s brutal and cruel but meditative and hallucinative. The film makes you smirk more than anything else and that’s a rare and deeply satisfying thing. There are beautiful moments where we see individuals dedicating their time to the real dreams which includes a man who desires to build the Titanic out of matchsticks and another who chooses to repeat one death defying stunt after another in the safe knowledge he has 64 years to live. There are dark but hilarious moments – one being a man of the church facing his unexpected maker – and there are bleak moments of realisation and painful truths such as a loyal carer discovering her elderly patient will vastly out-live her. All in all The Brand New Testament is a witty mid-week treat which will make you think, smile and occasionally squirm. For a film about the holy trinity, it’s got a wicked sense of humour.
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