Directed by Draco Van Dormael
Starring Benoit Poelvoorde, Pili Groyne, Catherine Deneuve

God’s an asshole who lives in Brussels – that’s the key conceit in the the new film from Belgian director Draco Van Dormael. As played by Benoit Poelvoorde, God is a grumpy, abusive, petty tyrant who spends every day inventing torments to rain down on humankind. Toast falling jam-side-down? God. Other queue moving faster than yours? God. Lost the love of your life? God.

God’s family are not immune to his malevolence, either. His wife (Yolande Moreau) copes by retreating into silent, compliant domesticity, but his 10-year-old daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) is sick of his crap. taking some advice from big brother JC (David Muriga), who’s hiding as a small stuatuette of himself in God’s doorless apartment, she resolves to head to the wider world, recruit six new apostles, and devise a brand new testament to free humanity from God’s cruelty.

Oh, and she also texts everyone the predetermined time and date of their death, which throws the world into turmoil.

The Brand New Testament is funny and frequently absurd, but at its core its a deeply humane and empathetic film that asks its audience to consider and forgive humankind’s foibles. Folliwing JC’s example of hanging around with society’s rejects, Ea assembles a motley assortment of followers: a homeless Jean-Claude Van Damme fan, a sex-obsessed middle-aged man who has elected to spend his allotted time on earth frequenting prostitutes, a murder-minded insurance salesman who reasons that if he kills anyone, then their time was clearly up, given the now unarguably deterministic nature of the universe. Everyone we meet is broken in their own way so if, as in the film’s archly skewed take on Christian doctrine, we’re all made in God’s image, wouldn’t that make Him screwed up an a Deistic level?

Boy, is he. Poelvoorde is a delight as the misanthropic anthropomorphic manifestation of the Divine. Not too bright, short of temper and, once he pursues Ea to Earth, subject to the same petty universal laws he has subjected us to, this God is one you love to hate. He’s also incapable of learning – although he is more than happy to pretend he has, wheedling and begging to get his usurped power back. God doesn’t get a character arc; that sort of thing is reserved for humans.

In the end it all comes down to a quite literal deus ex machina ending – quite acceptable when you;re playing around with this kind of material, really – but that doesn’t detract from what is a warm, cynical, deeply funny look at the human condition. Definitely make the time for A Brand New Testament – it’s worth it.

TRAVIS JOHNSON

The Brand New Testamenis playing as part of the Lotterywest Festival Films Season until Sunday, January 31. Go here for tickets and session times. 


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