Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Country: Belgium / France / Luxembourg
The terrific Belgian director, Jaco Von Dormael, always has something inventive and captivating to present. Fantastic movies such as “Toto the Hero”, “The Eighth Day”, and “Mr. Nobody” immediately pop up into our minds for favorable reasons whenever we hear his name.
His latest, “The Brand New Testament” is a sweet divertissement that plays with religion and introduces very funny characters while combining the real and surreal, as he loves to do, in the most extraordinary ways.
The story follows a 10-year-old girl, Ea (Pili Groyne), who is neither more nor less than the daughter of the mighty God (Benoit Poelvoorde) and direct sister of Jesus Christ. In this quirky tale, co-written by Mr. Dormael and Thomas Gunzig, God is not as benevolent and understanding as we might think since he spends most of his time picking on his good-natured wife (Yolande Moreau) and clever daughter, and writing laws for the humans on Earth. These laws are frequently made of despicable rules, called universal miseries, which take immediate effect on Earth right after enter his computer system, just for his own amusement.
With the absence of Jesus from a disappointing ‘paradise’, which is connected to Brussels through a long metallic sleeve that culminates in a washing machine of a laundry facility, the only one capable to defy God is Ea, a collector of human tears and the perspicacious narrator, who explains she wants to turn the world into a better place and then teach her father a lesson.
Resolutely, and advised by her brother, she steps into God’s office and sends a message to everybody on Earth with the exact time they still have to live – a literal ‘death leak’. Moreover, she sets off to Earth in order to fetch six new apostles and add them to the twelve that Jesus had gathered before. For the task, she counts on Victor, a dyslexic homeless who becomes her loyal ally.
The new apostles are diversified: a beautiful and yet sad girl who lost her arm when she was very young; a former adventurer who wasted most of his life working in something he didn’t like; a sexual maniac who finally finds true love; an inveterate assassin who falls in love for the first time; an unhappy married woman who rejoices in the company of a gorilla; and a little boy whose final wish is to become a girl. Everyone has their days counted and it’s urgent to find happiness for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, the angered God also decides to come down to live an earthly life while he searches for his disobedient daughter but falls in the traps and tricks he had set up. He starts living in Brussels, as a common man.
Ea’s plan includes a transition of powers from God to her beloved mother, a true saint whose true passions are embroidering and watch baseball games.
Not so deep, challenging, or puzzling as “Mr. Nobody”, “The Brand New Testament” evinces some gaps in the storytelling. Still, it advances at an energetic pace and provides solid amusement with its dreamy elements, musical nuances, conspicuous metaphors, tense developments, and sympathetic humor.
I came to the conclusion that this is Dormael’s less accomplished film so far, but not a disappointment at all. Its feel-good posture has the ability to bring you a good time.