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  Brand New Testament, The Your Days Are Numbered
Year: 2015
Director: Jaco Van Dormael
Stars: Pili Groyne, Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, François Damiens, Yolande Moreau, Laura Verlinden, Serge Larivière, Didier De Neck, Marco Lorenzini, Romain Gelin, Anna Tenta, Johann Heldenbergh, David Murgia, Gaspard Pawels, Bilal Aya
Genre: Comedy, Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: God (Benoît Poelvoorde) is actually still alive and lives in Brussels, capital of Belgium with his wife (Yolande Moreau) and his young daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) in a small apartment that they never leave. Ea doesn't really like her father, because in her eyes he is without redeemable features as he may have created the world, but after settling on mankind as the highest inhabitants of Earth aside from himself, he proceeded to inflict all sorts of miseries on them, from major disasters to such petty rules as the bread always landing jam side down if you drop it, or more importantly, there's never just one hassle happening at once, for the minute they begin there will be another to accompany it; may two or three. Sick of this pointless victimisation, Ea makes up her mind to do something.

Films featuring God as a character usually treat Him with some degree of respect, with the actor playing Him being someone of the stature of Morgan Freeman, but not since Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Bedazzled had there been quite a portrayal of the Almighty that gave Him such a kicking as He gets here. Literally, as once Poelvoorde's deity escapes the confines of his flat, he suffers in much the same manner that he has made his subjects suffer, or according to this at least, for director Jaco Van Dormael had no time for the position that humanity was responsible for their own disasters and nastiness, reasoning God was the one who had forced us into this frame of mind, so we should not blame ourselves.

Obviously, this was an irreverent comedy, so the purpose was to make you laugh at such observations, but there were deeper concerns too, and the film appeared to be making a case for love being the saving grace in life. Thanks to God, the person we fall in love with is not likely to be the person we stay with, assuming we stay with anyone at all, but what if Ea was able to change all that? As she discusses with Jesus Christ (David Murgia), who is a statuette on top of a wardrobe, there are limits to what she can do, but then she twigs that if she uses her existing powers of small miracles she can successfully make a difference that is global. What does she do? She sends an e-mail to everyone in the world giving them a countdown on their phones which tells them how long they have to live.

For most of the recipients they simply feel a lot more fatalistic and resolve to carry on as they always did until the end is nigh, which is given an extra patina of dejection when Ea says to the homeless man Victor (Marco Lorenzini), who she has recruited as her scribe to pen the brand new testament of the title, that the world we live in now is supposed to be Paradise and there is nothing else. But for some, this realisation changes their ways, from the humorous (a bloke called Kevin is frequently seen throwing himself from high places because he has sixty-two years left to live) to the more profound, as with the elderly mother who looks after her Downs Syndrome son who will outlive her for over a decade weighs up her options and seriously considers killing him so he won't be suffering without her.

But Ea has a scheme that will see her gather an additional six apostles, and the people she chooses range from a self-confessed sex maniac who actually loves women, but has a rather lustful way of showing it, to a man who has wasted his life on work he doesn't care about to the exclusion of all else, then wakes up to the fact that his real passion is birds (of the feathered variety), to Catherine Deneuve in a supporting role as a woman who only ever found limited satisfaction with male prostitutes rather than her cold fish husband, but now discovers a gorilla will tend to every emotional and sexual need she ever has. As you can see, this was determinedly whimsical and could be a bit much for those not used to Van Dormael's mixture of strange fantasy, quirky humour and message making; in truth, he had combined them more smoothly before, and there was an adolescent quality to this with its faith in romance and punishing of the real reason it decided we on Earth were miserable, but there was a lot of charm in that and its heart was in the right place. Music by An Pierlé.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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