Mon 5 Oct 2015
You can hardly get a better set of premises for a film than the ones of Le tout nouveau testament or The Brand New Testament by Belge director Jaco Van Dormael. Bored being, one day, God created Bruxelles (quite a fun city actually, but this is a tourist perspective, not the one of the inhabitants and certainly not the one of God). Then he moved together with his wife and daughter (his Son JC died about 2000 years ago, as we all know) in a secluded apartment, from where he controls the world by means of a PC and an Internet connection. He is quite a nasty guy, making happen to people on Earth all the unpleasant things we know about, and an abusive father, who does not allow any TV but sports in the apartment. Until the day when his pre-teen daughter decides to take revenge and run away, not before using her Father’s computer to let all people on Earth know the date and time of their death. When arrived on Earth, she needs to find six extra-apostles chosen randomly from the population of the planet (or of Belgium better said). Why 6? Because 12 + 6 = 18 – the number of players in baseball, the preferred sport of Mother.
Before you get angry on me, these are only the first 5 or 10 minutes of the story. The rest is about how these wonderful premises are being used. Director Van Dormael seems to have had two models in his mind. The first is of course the eternal masterpiece of historical satire Life of Brian. Because of the subject. The second is the eternal masterpiece of sweet feel-good movies Amelie. Because of the kid-actress Pili Groyne who is in control of all the action and all good or at least well-intentioned things that happen on screen. The result is also middle-of-the-road. Too middle-of-the-road. Because Van Dormael does not have (yet?) the daring insanity of Monty Python and because Pili Groyne is not (yet?) Audrey Tautou.
Much of the film is spent with telling the stories of six brand new apostles, what they chose to do with the rest of their lives now that they know precisely how long it will last, and how the Brand New Testament and the team of 18 are performing better than the previous editions. As one may expect, the ending is kind of DEUS EX MACHINA.
This sweet merry Reformation on screen is fun to follow for most of the time. Just the pleasure of seeing Catherine Deneuve in a new role (one of the apostles, no more or less) is enough reason to go and see it and there are other. Yet, director Jaco Van Dormael took a bet and partly lost it in starting from such bright ideas and producing just a nice film.