As you may be aware, most films that mix subject matter such as religion and satire, are bound to stir some very heavy controversy, Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) is a classic example of this, and now we have Jaco Van Dormael’s The Brand New Testament which could quite easily sit alongside it. Now quite frankly, comedy has been subjective but there is more to Testament than just comedy, and surprisingly enough, it’s all quite ingenious.
God (Benoît Poelvoorde), is actually a middle-aged alcoholic who lives in Brussels. He not only fathered Jesus Christ, but also had a daughter by the name Ea (Pili Groyne). God is described by Ea as an “asshole”, as all he seems to do is be mean and cruel to everybody on earth, his own timid wife, and even Ea herself, just for his own amusement. When Ea decides to fight back, she does so by sending every person on earth the date of their death. As she escapes to earth herself, she intends to write a brand new testament by gathering six of her own disciples, each with a gospel of their own. As God is on the warpath to bring his daughter home, people all over the world are seeing life in a whole new way, and decide to change their own lives, while they still can.
As I mentioned before I can imagine this rubbing people up the wrong way, but quite frankly that’s a good thing. To get a reaction from people, be it good or bad, you know you have done something right. The performance of God by Poelvoorde is so unexpected because people tend to view him in such a high manner. This God is a drunk, who takes the belt to his child, and treats humanity like his little playthings for his own amusement. But as he ventures out into the world to retrieve his daughter, it becomes a very slapstick affair as all of the wrongs that he invented in the world, come back at him with a vengeance.
The film itself is actually quite beautiful in terms of its oddly poetic nature. Ea only wants to right the wrongs of her father and when people realise their time may soon be up, some of them have different ways of dealing with it. Such as one of Ea’s disciples, who decides to embrace nature and all of the beauty of the world as he felt he had missed out on most of his life. Not only do moments like this expand on the epiphanies of beauty, but the outstanding cinematography which helps us to capture all of these moments as if we were experiencing them ourselves is actually quite heart-warming.
Seeing Benoît Poelvoorde playing someone so callous and sadistic, or even something which may draw him a lot of controversy, isn’t new. As some of you may be aware of the film Man Bites Dog (1993), he isn’t shy about putting his face out there for features of the risqué nature. Testament was funny, charming, beautifully poetic and shows us how love for our fellow humans and the planet is easier than we think. I smiled pretty much the whole way through. Easily one of my favourite films of the year.