The Brand New Testament
The Brand New Testament

Showings: Feb 24-Mar 2

Times: Nightly at 7:30pm, Sunday Matinee at 2:30pm

Cost: $7; Matinees $6; MVFS Members $5; Seniors over 60, Military and Students with ID $6; Wednesdays $5

Length: 112 min

Language/Subtitles: French & German w/ subtitles

Film Director: Jaco Van dormael

Website:

In the Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael’s wickedly amusing religious satire, “The Brand New Testament,” God (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a snarling, meanspirited bully who rules the universe from an apartment in Brussels. Inside his locked office, surrounded by walls of card files, the tyrannical, perpetually bored deity sits behind a computer and plays nasty practical jokes on humans. A favorite pastime is contriving Laws of Annoyance, like making sure that when a piece of toast falls, it always lands with the jelly side down.

God’s wife (Yolande Moreau) is a silent, slavishly dutiful housekeeper; his son, JC, has been reduced to a statue. It remains for his rebellious young daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne), to flout his authority. Sneaking into his office, she hacks into his computer and, in what the news media later names “DeathLeaks,” sends text messages to everyone in the world, informing all of the dates of their deaths. Suddenly, millions are free to use the time they have left as they see fit. One daredevil, assured of a long life, keeps jumping from heights and landing safely.

Ea flees the family’s locked house and her father’s wrath through the washing machine, emerges from a Brussels laundromat and sets about collecting disciples to resolve a power struggle between her parents. Meeting a homeless man, she enlists him to help her find six more apostles to add to the 12 depicted in a tapestry of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” that hangs in God’s apartment.

This is only the start of a surreal comedy whose endless visual imagination matches its conceptual wit. Most of the humor is too lighthearted to offend all but the most reverent believers, and the movie’s inventiveness rarely flags. What plays out onscreen is a zany fairy tale in the Monty Python mode, but not quite as silly, and with a streak of pictorial poetry.

The disciples Ea collects include Aurélie (Laura Verlinden), a beautiful woman with a prosthetic arm from a subway accident; Jean-Claude (Didier De Neck), a clerk who quits his job to follow a flock of birds to the Arctic; Marc (Serge Larivière), a sex maniac obsessed with his first adolescent crush; François (François Damiens), a serial killer; the unhappily married Martine (Catherine Deneuve), who falls in love with a gorilla; and Willy (Romain Gelin), a little boy who wants to live out his remaining time as a girl.

Once Ea’s search for disciples begins, “The Brand New Testament” slips from satire into absurdist farce, loses its sharper edges and becomes merely silly. But it is still fun. When he leaves the apartment and his computer, the vindictive, rampaging deity, who endures one humiliation after another, is a nobody, and his protest, “Do you know who I am?” is to no avail.

In perhaps the riskiest bit of business, God, while looking for Ea, visits a church where he creates a ruckus by rudely breaking into a line at a soup kitchen. A priest gently admonishes him, saying, “God tells us to love your neighbor as yourself.”

“I never said that,” God snaps. “I hate myself. I would say hate your neighbor as yourself. The kid said a lot of stuff on the spur of the moment.” (Stephen Holden, New York Times)