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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 06.08.15] Luxembourg comedy

There is still a bit of misunderstanding regarding Malraux's cryptic prophecy that "religion will be the measure of humanity in the 21st century" - after all, the fellow wasn't all there - yet it has been recently proven true on so many wrong levels the old chap is surely spinning in his grave like a powerball. One of the sad consequences is this disclaimer: If the matter is serious to you, consider the new Jaco van Dormael as an intelligent and harmless version of Dogma and do not read any further.

Our setting here is the tangible and provable existence of God. He lives in Brussels, spends his days in a mouldy dressing gown and overall, behaves like an atrocious boor, extremely abusive and violent to his wife and daughter. His son ran away a while back and got a huge gig with twelve pals as "JC and the Apostles" and now Ea, the ten year old daughter, is getting restless. Before escaping the clutches of her father to see the world, she messes with his computer, sending everyone on Earth their death date via small message and effectively destroying the balance of huge despair and faint hopes initially set by her old man.

An Eternity of work thrown away in a few seconds; Maybe work isn't the best word in this case but rather a form of an entertainment, since our God here is the epitome of schadenfreude. Fine tuning humanity's despair is his life achievement. His son has already put a dent in it with all the "love each other" rubbish but Ea's actions are the proverbial straw on the camel. Angry as a honey badger he follows her on Earth.

The story is mostly told through Ea as we follow her in her discovery of the world while also collecting Apostles to spread an updated gospel.

If you're a fan of Jaco van Dormael, you won't be disappointed with this new movie and if you've yet to discover his trademark poetic insight on the frailty of the human condition you're in for a treat. His fascination for broken creatures, whether mentally or physically, is always expressed in ways that aren't exploitative and manage to be uplifting. On top of that this one is tremendously funny on so many levels.

The deeply religious setting is a perfect breeding ground for comedy. After all, the central idea that God created us in its image might be the oldest joke of the written world. In Hebrew the name of God is spelled:יהוה Write the letters one above the other you get a little stick figure. As literal as it is funny. Introducing a God of annoyance, proud of his creation, of every "Murphy's law" variation possible is not stretching the idea that much. Of course, once inside his Creation he will get his comeuppance. A rightly deserved one might I say.

Lavishly coating the cynicism of her father is the candour of Ea's point of view, effectively using this seemingly naive narrator to soften the core of rather unpleasant discourse. Without it and without Poelvoorde's splendid performance, the movie would fall into a nihilism in the vein of Man Bites Dog. Poelvoorde's portrayal of the Almighty makes him even more deserving of contempt than you'd believe reading the script. Facing such deity, our duty is to be morally superior to it.

On a lighter note, it's not everyday you'll witness Catherine Deneuve get frisky with a forty stones gorilla. She's no stranger to roles with alternative sexual demeanour, even if this one is far less sexy than making out with Susan Sarandon or Fanny Ardant, and she manages to make it both beautiful and poignant.

I could dissect The Brand New Testament for hours but that would make your experience mundane. If it happens to play at a theatre near you, go see it. You'll laugh, cry and for two fleeting hours the world will be a better place.

Recommended Release: Mr. Nobody

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