By Andy Jilovec
I found the film, The Brand New Testament by filmmaker, Jaco Van Dormael, hilarious, irreverent, and charming. I recommend it to everyone looking for an easy escape to a relatable comedy that embraces a very human rendering of the concept of God and religion. Originally billed as a “dark, fantasy comedy”, if you hold fast to an image of God as a wise and white haired, bearded, father to us all, you will probably be offended. This film builds upon recognizable family dynamics in a Brussels, Belgium apartment. It is original, cheeky and whimsically familiar, upending the traditional story of God, the Father. It is performed in French with English subtitles.
The film director immediately slams us in the face with its depiction of God as a computer addicted, bored, mean-spirited, chain smoking slob. He is fed-up with human-kind and all of our failures. Reveling in the knowledge that he has “everybody by the balls”, he takes it upon himself to create “Laws of Annoyance” to irritate and annoy, such as “other lines always move faster,” “a fallen piece of toast always lands jam-side down,” and “just when you get into the bath, the phone rings.”
God emotionally abuses his silent, down-trodden wife and spirited daughter. The Goddess, unnamed throughout the film, sets the table every meal with an unused fourth place-setting. God berates his wife for doing so, snarling, “He is never coming back!” Their daughter, Ea, rails against her father’s mistreatment of her mother and his disregard of her apparently absent brother. She defies him at every opportunity. One table-side dispute ends with Ea running to her room. A statue of Jesus stands atop an armoire. She reaches up to stroke the face of the figurine asking what she can do about the father’s bad behavior. The figure opens his eyes revealing he is her brother, JC, and jokingly agrees with her about their father’s anger issues. Their amiability demonstrates love and trust between the siblings. They recognize their father’s shortcomings are harmful and both agree that something needs to be changed.
Remembering a time when she innocently wandered through a momentarily left-open door to her father’s private office, only to receive a beating in return, her interest and resolve to learn more about it is set. Determined to source and disrupt her father’s angry strangle-hold on her family and human-kind, Ea waits for her father to fall into a drunken sleep and steals his office key. Inside she performs a few clicks on her father’s personal computer sending texts to all of humanity, and steals some information from a file drawer. Her brief visit to the office leads to a disruption of civilization as we know it, with unimaginable, sometimes uproarious consequences.
When she hears her father bellowing about his missing key and discovery of her trespass into his office she quickly realizes his wrath is fast approaching her. She runs to her bedroom to consult the figurine about a means of escape. JC instructs Ea to set the washing machine to a 1200 rpm cycle and crawl through. By doing so, she discovers a long vent-like tunnel that eventually dumps her into another washer in a laundromat on Earth.
More description would reveal spoilers for rest of the film. I will mention that when her father discovers Ea’s deception, he follows her to Earth where his bad manners are not tolerated. Ea takes matters in her own hands, determined to undo some of the damage incurred by father. Their respective earthly behaviors and interactions with people they meet lead to some very human, surprising, creation-shattering consequences.