Being raised Catholic, Methodist and Baptist, I had no idea what to expect watching The Brand New Testament. I don’t go to church these days and wouldn’t call myself religious, so I had an open mind. However, I’m glad I had been exposed to Christianity in my youth as it enabled me to squeeze every ounce of humour from this somewhat irreverent piece of comedy that has a deeper message for all.
The Brand New Testament is a satirical comedy, which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It focuses on grumpy old, scruffy, God, who happens to live in Brussels, being outsmarted by his 10 year old daughter Ea, sister to Jesus Christ (appearing as a religious icon). Ea wants to build a new world and give people fresh hope.
In order to create a new world, she sneaks into his office and texts the entire world that they have a limited amount of time left before they die. She begins to create a new Testament while collecting five new apostles along the way.
At first people think the texts are a joke, but then they ultimately die. As the world figures out how to spend their end of days, many realise they can find their own peace and have no use for God.
There were so many impressive aspects that make this film highly enjoyable – the script, the acting, the direction and the music.
The script was well crafted, clever, funny and gave every actor a chance to shine. There was also a deeper level that is missing from so many comedies.
The standard of acting was exceptionally high. Pili Groyne (as Ea) is an embodied idealistic youth, not satisfied with life and eager to make changes. Benoit Poelvoorde is a disillusioned God, bored with his life and stuck in a rut. Yolande Moreau is the wife of God, suitably ditzy on the surface but with a kind heart underneath. Moreau has no dialogue so focusses on her facial expressions.
The five disciples (Ea is the sixth) are played by superb character actors who all shine in their individual stories. A stand out performance is none other than Catherine Deneuve as Martine, the wife who finds no joy with her husband and new love with a gorilla – yes a gorilla! Each of the five disciples has their own music chosen from famous composers. The music serves to enlighten the disciples to begin a new life.
The director, Jaco Van Dormael, treats the project with cheekiness and a deft hand. He extracts every nuance from the script without preaching or being heavy handed.
I loved the premise and the execution of this film and enjoyed every minute of it. If you are easily offended by religious satire, then it may not be for you.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 9