Heretical or Endearing? — “The Brand New Testament” Adds to the Gospel

©Kris Dewitte/Courtesy of Music Box Films
©Kris Dewitte/Courtesy of Music Box Films
©Kris Dewitte/Courtesy of Music Box Films

©Kris Dewitte/Courtesy of Music Box Films

In The Brand New Testament, filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael has God portrayed as a bitter, vindictive, middle-aged man in Brussels who loves screwing around with the lives, deaths, and afterlives of those toward whom he arbitrarily directs his wrath. The thorn in his side, however, isn’t Lucifer, but his 10-year-old daughter, Ea. She abhors his cruel attitudes, especially toward her and her mother. Ea’s crucified late brother, JC, now exists as a talking ceramic nicknack, but he nonetheless inspires her.

However, the film’s most fascinating conceit is that their household tapestry of “The Last Supper” starts to include contemporary figures alongside the first century BCE figures familiar to many. These figures are those whom Ea seeks out to make the New Testament relevant to today. Is this heretical or not? You have to decide for yourself. But without a doubt, Pili Groyne is a winningly endearing Ea, an un-tragic Christ figure for our own time. She is vividly contrasted by Benoit Poelvoorde as the dreadful, patriarchal God.

The apostles range in types and interests. Catherine Deneuve plays a woman who becomes romantically involved with a gorilla. Laura Verlinden gives a touching performance as a woman who lost her arm. Francois Damiens plays a disciple who likes to kill people. There is also a trans element but I won’t go into that. You’ll have to see this film. And it’s a wonderful film, reminiscent of Amelie.

The Brand New Testament

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