Some may respond strongly to Belgian director Jaco van Dormael’s The Brand New Testament’s inspired “what-if” scenario: God (Benoît Poelvoorde, Coco Before Chanel), it turns out, lives among us, or at least in a Brussels three-bedroom apartment, with his unnamed goddess wife (Yolande Moreau, Micmacs, Séraphine, Amélie) and ten-year-old daughter Ea (Pili Groyne, Deux jours, une nuit). In this universe, God is not so much benign or vengeful, but more a heartless bastard, who enjoys nothing more than heaping vexations large and small on the species he created in his own image.
Perpetually attired in a grey T-shirt and ratty dressing gown, he is an obnoxious bully to his wife and daughter—that is, when he is not busy locked in his office, smoking, boozing and inflicting misery on mankind via his vintage desktop computer.
After God takes a belt to his daughter, who has never been allowed outside the family home, Ea solicits advice from a her long-lost brother “JC.” The pair devise a plan. Ea is going to get six additional disciples, and listen to them, thus creating a Brand New Testament. Before she can do this, she enacts an ingenious revenge on her father. Hacking into his hard drive, she sends a text message to the mobile phone of every human advising them of their exact date of death, crashes the computer to rob God of any power to cause more mischief, and then breaks out of the apartment prison via a secret portal at the back of the family’s washing machine.
God, who follows Ea through the portal (which his browbeaten wife immediately seals behind him), finds that he is completely incapable of taking care of himself and is mistaken for a paperless illegal immigrant. His selfish nature repels anyone who tries to help, and the indignities pile up.
As Ea gathers her new disciples and the world begins adjusting to a new social order, things ultimately become rather pleasant.
“A ratty-faced Poelvoorde is excellent in the role, brilliantly capturing the exasperation of a man who is entirely to blame for his own misfortune.” (Charles Gant, Screen Daily)
“This new film from Belgian director Jaco van Dormael (Toto the Hero, Mr Nobody) won’t exactly win favour with the ultra-faithful, but for those who like their Bible stories with a thick coat of satire, The Brand New Testament is a peppy, original and (importantly) very sweet story.” (Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian)
“In these times of religious sensitivity, there is a sizeable risk that the premise will offend a certain swathe of the audience. In reality, the fantasy of a violent God storming around a dark apartment and mistreating his long-suffering wife and daughter is so stratospherically far out, it has the venom of a Monty Python routine. It is irresistibly laugh-out-loud and feel-good.” (Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter)