The Brand New Testament

brand-new-testament-ea

A young girl – the daughter of God, as it so happens, is fed up with the torment her father puts the world through. To get back at him, she releases the death dates of everyone in the world and decides to flee the windowless isolated apartment she shares with her father and browbeaten mother to follow in her brother “JC”’s footsteps. She sets out to find apostles of her own and create a Brand New Testament. Without the threat of an imminent and unknown visit from death, the people of the world are now living the lives they most desire, and Dieu (God) is furious. The people of Earth are left asking – “What will we do with the rest of our lives?”

The actual narrative of this piece is very much grounded in our day-to-day reality as we know it. God doesn’t live in heaven, somewhere in the celestial stratosphere. He lives in a dimly lit apartment in Brussels. He isn’t mighty and all-powerful, he’s more of a twerpy, miserable guy who spends most of his time in a bathrobe. Not only is he not all-powerful, in fact he’s essentially powerless without his computer. Unlike his children who each have their own power that they carry within them, independent of outside sources. While Ea feels her powers are not as impressive as her big brother JC’s, she is able to listen to people’s individual “music” and equipped with this knowledge she is able to gift them with her own small little miracles.

While the film is a satirical turn at religion, it doesn’t come across as disrespectfully irreverent. It plays rather more tongue in cheek, highlighting the best components of religion, humanity and life through a child’s eyes, as well as highlighting some of the negatives. In one scene the young narrator explains how people have gone to war in the name of God as silent movie era style clips play and the various warriors proclaim their violence in the name of “God, Allah” etc. Because the story is told through the eyes of a child it feels as though it all comes from a very pure place. In her quest for apostles, we do not wind up with the pillars of society, but this does not deter young Ea. Instead she is essentially blind to all of that and is more interested in hearing the individual stories from this colorful cast of characters she has assembled. She chooses a vagrant to be her scribe, because all she cares about is that he can read and write better than she can. “He smelled of salt, garlic and lemon. He had skin like an old serpent waiting for a glass of blood at the counter, in a deserted bar. Just the type I’ve had liked as a father”.  The narration is beautifully crafted and Pili Groyne as young Ea is a wonderfully effective mix of purity, curiosity and rebellion. She is able to convey such a sense of gentleness and sincerity, I’m excited to see what future projects she takes on. Benoit Poelvoorde is hilarious in his tyrannical turn as a vengeful God as he searches Brussels hot on Ea’s trail and falls victim to his own unfortunate laws, “Law No. 2218: The other line always moves faster.”

The journey isn’t really about getting to know Ea, it’s about getting to know her chosen apostles. The same way that she wanted The Brand New Testament to focus on the apostles rather than on her, and in the process we come to know her as well. The individual apostles themselves are interesting and varied. I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Check this movie out, I’d say it’s a strong contender for best foreign film. Whimsical, uplifting and charming. Go, go go.

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