Joan Osborne once posed the question, “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us?” In Jaco Van Dormael’s The Brand New Testament, God (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a sloppy, angry middle-aged white guy with a very plain wife (Yolande Moreau). They live in a dark apartment in Brussels, where He works from home (she’s a homemaker with a thing for collecting baseball cards). His job is pretty easy: to heap misery onto the human race, which He watches over on a computer in a room with a card catalog that stretches to the sky. God’s preteen daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne), is not impressed with Him or His arrogant, authoritarian, and sadistic ways. Inspired by her brother “JC” (David Murgia), who tells her how to get out of the apartment through the washing machine, Ea hatches a plan to revise the way things work and hopefully make the world a better place: while Our Father is asleep on the couch, she sends a text message to everyone on Earth that reveals the date and exact time of their death, locks God’s computer, and runs away from home in search of six apostles to tell their stories—the Brand New Testament.
This film could have made a weighty statement, but it doesn’t. Instead, The Brand New Testament, executed with a hefty dose of fantasy and fabulism, is a fluffy affair. While all six apostles lack something—love, passion, an arm—they’re comical despite their sadness. Some of their subplots are better than others, particularly Aurélie (Laura Verlinden), a beautiful woman with a secret, and Willy (Romain Gelin), a young boy with cancer who wants to be a girl. Catherine Deneuve plays a neglected and bored housewife, and it’s truly surreal to see her in a role where she gets fucked by a street gigolo (Bilal Aya) and ends up leaving her husband (Johan Leysen) for a gorilla (Kiko Mirales). That’s right, a gorilla. Clever Biblical references, especially to the numbers 12 and 18, are generously sprinkled throughout the script. There’s even a point in here about gender politics. For all its charms, though, The Brand New Testament is a much better concept than a finished product.
(Music Box) C