Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel ban is lifted to keep some of my sanity intact.
The Brand New Testament is, on paper, a film that imagines God’s doctrine in a modern-day setting. Yet, in the end, it becomes a light-hearted plea for a shift in mentality – specifically from a masculine and belligerent one to a feminine and compassionate one.
The story imagines God (Benoit Poelvoorde) as a sleazy, obnoxious man who rules his household with an iron fist and runs the world, which he created out of boredom and frustration, from the computer in his studio. He mostly entertains himself in torturing those who live on Earth, much to the disgust of Ea (Pili Groyne), his daughter, who one day decides to do something about righting his wrongs.
In order to do so, she decides to make the trip to Earth – from her home’s washing machine – and gather up six new apostles to write a “Brand New Testament.” Before she does so, she sends a text to the people on earth that tells them exactly when they will die.
In the face of mortality, the people are made vulnerable and many decide to change their lifestyle. But the film doesn’t much get into that and becomes more superficial and cartoonish as it progresses. Which is a shame, because the start is upbeat and appears to hold a promise of something special and ingenious – a promise implied by the fact that the film is directed by Toto le hero‘s Jaco Van Dormael.
Yet, the director simply lacks in ambition. As Ea meets those who are to become her disciples – a cast of people broken in their own ways – it seems they are able to find fulfilment mostly by finding love, which is a very disappointing and bourgeois resolution. In fact, when we see an upper class woman (Catherine Deneuve), it is almost refreshingly mad.
If you take it for what it is – mostly a comedic romp that remains on the safe side of making profound reflections on the meaning of existence – The Brand New Testament is indeed a lot of fun. However, if you’re looking for something a little more stimulating than this, both mentally and spiritually, you might be pretty disappointed (though it’s several steps up Bruce Almighty.)
LE TOUT NOUVEAU TESTAMENT | Director – Jaco Van Dormael | Writer – Jaco Van Dormael, Thomas Gunzig | Starring – Benoit Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, Pili Groyne | Belgium, France, Luxembourg | 2015