Jaco Van Dormael is a scarce director. Since his 1991’s first film, Toto the Hero, he directed only three feature length movies: The Eight Day, the touching story between a business man and the patient of a mental institution with Down syndrome; Mr. Nobody, a futuristic fantasy about Life and Love; and Kiss & Cry, an experimentally sensorial fantasy featuring miniatures and dancing hands. Following this already peculiar body of work, the Belgian director has decided with his fifth film The Brand New Testament to tackle…God.
God (Benoît Poelvoorde, Man Bites Dog) is real…and he lives in Brussels. On Earth, he is a coward, with dubious morals and an odious antipathy toward humanity but also his family. His daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne, Two Days, One Night), can’t stand being locked up in a small apartment in such an ordinary city. So she decides to revolt against her dad. By hacking his computer and leaking to the entire world the dates of each of the population’s death, she causes a global pandemic and heads out to find her own set of disciples to spread a new testament of joy and kindness.
In a time where religious matters seem like an inexhaustible source of tension, controversy and confrontation, Van Dormael, helped by his co-writer Thomas Gunzig, decides to divert Religion by frankly deriding Christianity and its symbols. As a first ascertainment, this already appears as, excuse the pun, miraculous! The movie is not meant to make the audience feel uncomfortable about its belief but it doesn’t frown at making the Divine an object of derision through permanent source of absurdities and visual ravings.
From God’s (euphorically portrayed by Benoît Poelvoorde, in a role he has frequently played but that nobody does better than him) boringly common flat to Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion) falling in love with a giant gorilla, The Brand New Testament offers a paradoxically demented yet poetic universe, perfectly in line with Van Dormael’s body of work, which is in perfect adequacy with the humour of the film. This humour is, moreover, the main asset of the film and regularly wins back the audience when it threatens to become too pompous.
With these welcomed premises and nicely blasphemous humour, it is therefore a shame that the construction of the movie, although cleverly based on the ‘other’ Testament, sometimes gives more the impression of an uneven Anthology movie than a more structured narrative in which fully fleshed characters are given the opportunity to evolve; Yolande Moreau’s ((B> Séraphine) character is the perfect illustration, her character unfortunately just appearing as nothing more than a ‘Deusa ex Machina’. Additionally, without spoiling the plot, it is also a shame that the naivety of some of Van Dormael’s messages tend to reduce the scope of the film and somewhat to diminish its impact, especially at the end of the film…
But let’s not spoil the fun! The Brand New Testament is a clever, poetic and delightfully acted movie which definitely belongs to the more than interesting body of work of a true auteur.
Metrodome is releasing The Brand New Testament on DVD on August 8th.
The film will only be available in the UK on DVD. In my opinion, such an interestingly visual movie would have greatly benefited from a blu-ray release as well; nonetheless the DVD version offers good video qualities without any noticeable defects.
There is no audio choice on the disc, only what appears to be a stereo 2.0 track with imposed English subtitles. I haven’t noticed any sound issues on the track.
The disc doesn’t offer any extras.
A funny religious comedy serviced by a basic DVD release