Le Tout Nouveau Testament (The Brand New Testament)
God exists and he’s not the benevolent deity we’ve been taught to believe in. Far from it. Living in a ramshackle apartment in modern-day Brussels with his bullied wife and spirited daughter Ea, God (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a bored, disgruntled megalomaniac intent on causing people misery for his own amusement.
Puffing away on a cigarette and with a raspy snigger, God types on his ancient computer his laws of “universal annoyance”, be it bread falling forever jam-side down or the phone always ringing upon slipping into a warm bath. With his model sets, he delights in whipping up natural disasters, plane crashes and travesties. But fear not, daughter Ea (played by talented young actress Pili Groyne) plans to make a change. At ten years old, unable to stand her father’s cruelty anymore, Ea hatches a plan to follow in the footsteps of her exiled brother JC, gathering together her six strange apostles to change the world for the better. Before she begins however, she neuters her father’s power by she publishing the precise time of death of every man, woman and child on the planet.
Stylishly shot but with little real substance, The Brand New Testament dives into its whimsical tale with all the poetic glee of a child running rampant through a field of buttercups. It’s clear director Jaco Van Dormael and screenwriter Thomas Gunzig have attempted something novel and there are elements where this originality shines through. The first act, perceptively named Genesis, starts with Ea’s narration of the early development of the world, which originated in Brussels and was populated by chickens in cinemas and giraffes on empty streets long before humans came along. Her decision to publish the death dates also makes for some clever recurring jokes.
Unfortunately, after the first act, The Brand New Testament really trails off, resulting in a film that is neither particularly funny nor profound. Many scenes boast an absurdity that detracts from any real poignancy, while still lacking any redeeming comedic value. It’s a story that, come the conclusion almost two hours later, seems destined to leave the audience wondering: what was the point of it all?
Le Tout Nouveau Testament (The Brand New Testament) is released nationwide on 15th April 2016.
Watch the trailer for Le Tout Nouveau Testament (The Brand New Testament) here: