THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT

PrintE-mail Written by Scott Varnham

That God, eh? He can be a right ol’ prick sometimes. At least that’s the refreshing take offered up by The Brand New Testament (or Le tout nouveau testament, for all you fact-lovers out there). God’s daughter Ea is looking to escape the grasp of her physically and emotionally abusive father. She does this by telling everyone on Earth with a phone precisely when they’re going to die and then running away to our world where we see the consequences.

It’s a fantastic premise and one that is allowed to unfold with a great deal of thought. Sure, the actual plot is a bit ropey, but the main strength of the film is that it shows how extraordinary events can have an impact on ordinary people. Ea has to recruit six apostles for a loosely defined reason and each of them (except one) is thoroughly well written. (One is just sort of there and doesn’t stick around for very long.) About an hour in, we realised that we were enjoying their stories and the world that had been set up so much that when it came back to the main narrative, we found it to be a bit of a chore. Truth be told, it’s debatable whether the film needed the main plot in the first place; it could’ve worked equally well as an interconnected series of short films. 

The film dipped a bit too far into the surreal for us but the more grounded parts were still top notch. Did we need to see giraffes roaming the deserted streets of Brussels? No, but it’s fun if you like that sort of thing, and it’s only on the screen for ten seconds or so if you don’t. Where this really comes into play, though, is the last five minutes of the film. Every lingering thread of reality fades away and the suspension of disbelief jumps out of the nearest window and just sort of hovers there in mid-air. Basically, the known world completely transforms into a collection of scenes that would go really well on album covers. Pink Floyd would be proud. It’s quite a polarising ending, if you were on board with it then you’ll be fine, but if you were on the fence at all then it will absolutely convince you that you hated it.

It’s tempting to say ‘go see it, it’s in French and you’ll look dead good to other people’, so someone will come and uncuff us from this radiator. But that would be disingenuous, as this is a film that does indeed deserve to be seen. It’s vibrant, genuinely funny and above all, completely delivers on its barking premise.

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JACO VAN DORMAEL / SCREENPLAY: JACO VAN DORMAEL, THOMAS GUNZIG / STARRING: BENOÎT POELVOORDE, CATHERINE DENEUVE, FRANÇOIS DAMIENS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW



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