I watched The Brand New Testament as soon as I could after seeing the trailer. Totally dig any project that purports to pursue the answer to the age-old question: What if God were one of us?
According to this film, He’d be a giant asshole in Bruxelles, which would be a veritable Garden of Eden if God weren’t such a maladjusted sadist. There is a nod to the fact that he might be a bored genius, which of course I can totally empathize with, but nonetheless He’s a bastard who enjoys other humans’ pain and suffering. He finds it amusing, from drafting Murphy’s laws to orchestrating terribly ironic human tragedies like not being able to spend your life with the one person you love. He’s the cosmic-scale version of the shitty kid who for laughs stomps out ants and pulls the legs off spiders.
Aaaaand there are spoilers below so stop here if that’s gonna be an issue.
Despite the title and the characters, this movie isn’t primarily theological. I mean, it does answer the Sunday-school favorite: Why do bad things happen to good people? Or: Why do bad things happen at all? And according to The Brand New Testament, that’s because God is an asshole who literally enjoys human suffering. If you try to keep up with the world news at all, you aren’t even gonna bat an eye at that supposition.
In TBNT, God on His computer is instead a device employed to explore one of my favorite philosophical questions: What would people do if they knew they when they were going to die?
The core message of this film is that people spend so much of their short time on this earth going to jobs they hate, living with people they don’t love, unwilling to take any risks to be happier.
But that all changes when you put an expiration date on it: If you only had ten years left on this earth, would you want to spend them with your spouse? Would you keep working your same job if you were going to die this year? So long as humans don’t know when they are going to die, God has them “by the balls”, but when they realize just how little time they have left, they refuse to compromise.
In the end, they just want to sit near the ocean with the people they love.
The Brand New Testament–the book that’s being written by God’s daughter, Ea, via her scribe, the homeless dude who can’t actually write–is woven from the threads of the new disciples’ life stories, all of whom find redemption not through religious faith but in the recognition that life is too short to be unhappy. They break old habits, quit their jobs, end their dysfunctional relationships, and throw themselves fully into the task of being happy for the rest of their lives.
Of the six disciples, two were problematic for me because I’m not European and I can’t scoff at everything. The guy who’s a sexual deviant carefully confines his deviancy to women his age, but there remains the problem that he can’t not imagine women naked and sexually available. So, he’s a creep. Even though he has a backstory, which isn’t even that compelling of a backstory, his being in a mild state of arousal like all the time is kind of gross. I mean, he needs professional help. Or okay, the love of a good woman.
I love how that always fixes everything.
The other disciple that made me squirm was the woman who had biblical knowledge of a gorilla. I guess this was some kind of joke that I didn’t get. Mostly I kept thinking about how animals can’t actually consent to sex with humans. I mean, in the movie, the gorilla spoke through Ea and he definitely expressed an interest in the woman. I guess like haha that’s absurd and maybe kinda Belgian/French? But it’s also just a couple of degrees away from having sex with a person who can’t consent because of age or ability, even if that person says they want to have sex.
When did I get so uptight I couldn’t laugh about King Kong getting it on with his crush?
Creepy man, bestial woman, and God verbally and physically assaulting his wife and daughter were elements/scenes that didn’t necessarily move the plot forward or contribute insight into the questions raised and explored by the film.
But guess who comes in and fixes everything when God gets himself deported to Uzbekistan because he literally can’t make it through a day in the world he’s created? The benevolent Goddess who finds Her power when she’s freed from God’s oppression. And that is the best way to end everything.
tl/dr: TBNT is more philosophical than theological; great flick and very funny except for some problematic scenes: CW for domestic abuse.