Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Written by Thomas Gunzig, Jaco Van Dormael
Starring: Pili Groyne, Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, François Damiens
A girl, Ea, tells us her story. She knows who God is; in fact, God is her father. He invented Brussels as he was bored while creating the world. He then wanted more, and tried unsuccessfully to populate this empty city with giraffes and chickens. Consequently, in the ultimate display of God-like power, he created a man in his image, and a woman, Eve. Ea rushes through the births in the early old testament, ‘Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim’ etc, as her father – Dieu – rushes through writing the bible, swiftly bringing us to the present. Dieu villainously plays with the lives of the very people he creates, laughing at them while writing laws that make no sense whatsoever. For example: “As soon as you get into the bathtub, the phone will ring”. That is now a law in this bizarre world created by an insane man. Dieu and his family’s living quarters have no exit and no entrance. How they eat, I’m not sure, but I’m willing to overlook it.
It is not made expressly clear if this is true or not, but it is said many times that Ea’s father had 12 disciple. How we see him, however, is almost always by himself, and if not he is abusing his daughter or wife. Their house has one giant room, where Dieu sits feverishly at his computer, playing with the lives of people he will never know. Ea turns 10 and decides it is time to leave, to get away from her abusive and insane father, who just happens also to be God. Some amusing advice from her brother gives her an escape route, and she quickly makes her decision and does not look back. Before she left however, she froze her father’s computer, but not before sending ‘death dates’ to every citizen in Brussels, causing many hilarious and various reactions. Suddenly every person knows when they will die; one youtube-type celebrity films himself jumping off increasingly high places because he knows he will live for another 62 years and cannot die no matter what he does. It is bizarre but it is damned funny!
Pairing with a homeless man who she takes a liking to, Ea soon begins a quest of her own to have six disciples. Her brother seems to be Jesus Christ, who advises her that twelve is too many and was a hassle for him – six is a good number. This whole concept is a little jarring at first, but considering her extremely odd up-bringing, and the world in which she inhabits, it makes a strange amount of sense as Ea travels with Victor – her scribe for the Brand New Testament – to find her six apostles.
As she finds each one we get to know them, though it is never made clear why they were chosen, which is what makes things interesting. One woman happens to have some sort of Gorilla fetish, another has become an assassin since everyone received their death date, who shoots at people and figures, if they die, then it was their time to die. They are all fascinating characters, most a little eccentric, but all have something special about them, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. By the end of the movie the apostles all seem as one, as they bond in different and interesting ways. Dieu ends up finding the tunnel out of the house and tries to follow Ea, leading to amusing results when he tries to tell people he is God, including a priest.
Almost like a Belgian spin on The Truman Show, The Brand New Testament is a witty and well written dark, surreal comedy-drama that has a fantastic lead in the young Pili Groyne as Ea, while Benoît Poelvoorde plays her manic father and the beautiful Catherine Deneuve plays her poor, weak-willed mother. It is also extremely well produced and put together. There are certainly some surreal images that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. It is also an interesting rumination on the hypothetical… What would you do if you could play God? If you could literally write history? What would you do if you found out when you were going to die? This film asks a lot of interesting questions, and while doing so delivers a funny and entertaining story that is almost the definition of ‘unique’ or ‘bizarre’.
One short of a sixer
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Great review 🙂 I have not seen this yet, but the tag line makes it sound thought-provoking and anything that has Catherine Deneuve in it I will see 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂
Yep gotta love Catherine Deneuve. Her role here is small though, its all about the wacky concept, if you can get your head around it
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Hey Jordan, I was just reading about this last night. It sounds excellent! I will try and check it out.
Its freakin bizarre man, I loved it. Definitely worth a watch!
Yeah there’s an article about it in Sight and Sound this month. Sounds very intriguing! I think it came out here yesterday but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to see it…might have to wait til I can see it on the small screen.
Ahh bummer. yeah I read that article the other day, seems like this is a return to form for the director
Having been to Brussels several times for work I think god needs to try harder. It is the armpit of Europe.
Haha! Being in Australia I don’t really know much about smaller Euro countries
If you ever come travelling I promise you you can skip Brussels.
hehehe I’ll keep that in mind… though it probably would never be on my itinerary anyway. I know nothing about the place!
Great review. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this from the preview and am now very interested.
Its… bizarre, which is putting it lightly!
Glad you focusing on some foreign films. Sounds cool.
One short of a sixer, you say? I completely concur. Recently reviewed this one myself and it was an absolute belter of a film. I loved it. Such wit and inventiveness that it reminded me very much of Amelie. 4.5 out of 5 for me.
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Yeah this one was pretty crazy. Very inventive, I agree, very unique and some really interesting ideas. Man it was ages ago when I saw this, now I wanna see it again!
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It was so good, man. When I look back over the releases of that year, I’d say this is my favourite. Absolutely superb little film.
Indeed indeed! I’m reading your review now =]
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