Fantastic Fest 2015: “The Brand New Testament” is gleefully irreverent

Catherine Deneuve stars in "The Brand New Testament"

Catherine Deneuve stars in “The Brand New Testament”

In this clever satire, God is real and reimagined as an angry Belgian man. Played by Benoît Poelvoorde (“A Town Called Panic”), God is also not a terribly pleasant person. He spends a lot of time screaming at his wife and daughter Ea (a wonderful performance from young Pili Groyne who was also in “Two Days, One Night”), watching sports, and presiding over the world on his computer. 

When Ea gets tired of her father’s attitude, she sneaks into his office, logs on to his computer and sends every person on the planet a direct message to let them know just exactly how long they have left to live. For those lucky enough to have many years ahead of them, the message is empowering. For others, it’s a stark notification that their time is running out. After this notion wrecks havoc among the general population, Ea runs away from home at the urging of her older brother, JC, so that she can find some new apostles and use their stories to craft an addendum to “the good book.”

Director Jaco Van Dormael (“Toto The Hero,” “Mr. Nobody”) has crafted a gleefully irreverent film that is filled with legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. Van Dormael and co-writer Thomas Gunzig have filled the movie to the brim with absurdist comedy. While some may find the film’s version of God to be blasphemous, “The Brand New Testament” is surprisingly sentimental.

The entire cast is excellent, but it’s worth noting that Catherine Deneuve plays one of the new apostles. She gives a fearless performance in the film’s most ridiculous storyline wherein her character falls in love with a gigantic circus gorilla and invites him to move into her home. It provides for some really goofy sight gags (the gorilla becomes a veritable bull in a china shop once inside her home), but viewers expecting her to be the star may be disappointed to learn she doesn’t even enter the picture until almost an hour in.

“The Brand New Testament” does not currently have U.S. distribution, but has been selected as the official Belgian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Oscars. It screens again at 5:45 p.m. on Monday. 

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