Film review: The Brand New Testament (2015)


As we all know, the big theological problem that theologians try to explain away but never succeed is that of theodicy, why a loving god would allow so much evil in the world. Well, this French film, one of the most wildly imaginative comedies I have seen in a good while, answers that question. God turns out to be a real bastard who enjoys deliberately creating wars and setting people against each other. But he is even more wicked than some of us imagined. He actually creates all the laws that really annoy people, such as the phone ringing just when you start to enjoy a bath, the line next to you moving faster in the supermarket, and the bread with the jam side falling on the floor.

The film’s premise is that God lives in Brussels in a dingy apartment with his wife, the Mother Goddess, and his ten year-old daughter Ea. He is a cranky, abusive, drunk who spends his days in a ratty bathrobe. He has terrorized his wife so much that she does not talk and spends her days cleaning, embroidering, poring over her baseball card collection, and waiting for the day when her son JC will return. But God tells her to forget about that last hope. He despises JC as a loser whom he sent into the world to spread his message of hate but JC went rogue and free-lanced about loving another and then got himself killed. The key plot point is that only God has the key to a massive locked room that has the records of every person and has a computer connected to the internet. It is only through the computer that God can exercise his powers. Without it, he is just an ordinary person.

The family never goes outside and watch only sports on TV so the mother and daughter have no idea what God is up to. One day, he forgetfully leaves the computer room door unlocked and his daughter sneaks in and looks at the computer and is horrified to find out what he has been doing and confronts him about why he is causing so much suffering to people whom he does not even know. Enraged, he beats her with a belt. She gets revenge by stealing his computer room key while he sleeps. She finds a file that lists the exact time of death of everyone in the world and sends out text messages to all of them with that information, and also inserts a countdown clock on their phones that tells them the amount of time they have left. She then disables the computer and escapes from the apartment into the world. When God wakes up and finds out what she has done, he is furious because the lack of knowledge about their time of death is the chief means he had of keeping people in fear and he is upset that people now can’t be pushed around anymore.

All this happens in the first fifteen minutes or so and the rest of the film is devoted to following the lives of the daughter, a homeless man she befriends and recruits to write a new testament to add to the Bible, and six people she has chosen as her own apostles as they decide what to do with the amount of time they have left before dying. Meanwhile God is trying to find his daughter to get her to fix the computer so that he can take control again.

The film is both funny and thought-provoking about how knowledge of when one will die changes the way that people view and live their lives.

Here’s the trailer.

Comments

  1. quotetheunquote says

    I like the concept … certainly, if there is a Big Cheese, a supernatural man behind the curtain, he’s a right bastard.

    But – a Belgian mother goddess with a baseball card collection? No, I can’t buy that, that stretches my willing suspension of disbelief too far.

  2. Mano Singham says

    quotetheunquote,

    At the beginning, I too was puzzled by the baseball fandom but the rationale for it appears later in the film.

  3. blf says

    Apropos of nothing much, baseball is a popular if quite minor sport in the Netherlands (so is cricket). And the national team is pretty good; they just lost the semi-final in the currently on-going World Baseball Classic (to Puerto Rico, 4–3 in 11 innings).

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