Fantastic Fest: ‘The Brand New Testament’ explores human aspiration in tonally imbalanced epic comedy

Alex Pelham

The French dramatic comedy “The Brand New Testament” has a lot to say about religion and humanity, so it’s a shame that it’s unfocused. With many simultaneous storylines and ideas to share, the innovative insights get lost in the mix. Nevertheless, there are clever, thought-provoking moments that will have audiences pondering morality and ambition.

In this story, God (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an abusive alcoholic who controls the universe in his dingy, cramped apartment. When his young daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne) decides she has had enough of her father’s bullying, she breaks into his computer and informs humanity of their predetermined death-date. Ea then leaves the apartment to collect six new apostles to spread her “brand new testament,” all while God attempts to sort through her mess.

The film’s main problem is its tonal imbalance. The film tries to be an epic that explains the world and human ambition, while also attempting to be a funny, slapstick comedy. The juxtaposition between some parts are jarring, and the switches between genres are exhausting.

The dramatic parts that explain misery, hope and mortality work well at times when director Jaco Van Dormael isn’t attempting to be artsy. The individual stories of Ea’s six apostles are heartbreaking and explore different elements of the human experience.

Groyne does a stellar job as Ea, who’s curious about life on Earth. She’s cute, charming and easily one of the most likeable protagonists around. Her father, on the other hand, has few redeeming qualities.  Poelvoorde makes his character so despicable that it’s disheartening he never makes up for his mistakes.

“The Brand New Testament” is a fascinating exploration of humanity from the point of view of a deity, but its uneven presentation hurts its message. Although a chore to sit through, audiences may still find intriguing ideas that will have them evaluating the path of their own lives.

"The Brand New Testament"

  • Director: Jaco Van Dormael
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: 6/10 Gorillas