Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m
Original UK release date 25/03/2016, cert.15, 113 mins
Showing on BFI Player from Thursday, July 20th, 2023
The idea of God being an utter bastard sounds theologically none too edifying, yet in the hands of Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) that’s not the case. It’s whimsical in the same way as Ralph Richardson playing the Supreme Being bumbling around at the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981) in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.”
Empty, present day Brussels replaces the Garden of Eden where Adam wanders around nude save for a black rectangular special effect covering his privates to meet Eve (her name tag) behind a deserted cafeteria counter. Much begatting extends their family. Grumpy old man God (Benoît Poelvoorde) writes rules for creation on his study computer, e.g. another queue always moves faster than the one you’re in. His son, as we know, went off to garner twelve disciples and four testaments. His timid, much put upon wife (Yolande Moreau) is a baseball fan who thinks there were six disciples too few, eighteen being the number of players in a baseball team. Ten year old daughter Éa (Pili Groyne) revolts, sends text messages telling each person how long they have to live, locks God’s computer screen then escapes into creation via a tunnel from the washing machine to a launderette to seek her own six disciples and gospel writer.
Despite much (not very explicit) sex – including Catherine Deneuve leaving her boring husband for a zoo gorilla – and a little violence (a serial killer in love with one of his targets), it’s all highly inventive and utterly charming if theologically incorrect, with nothing I personally wouldn’t want a ten-year-old to see. All this, plus the suggestion that a loving God might, in fact, be female.
Review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release date 25/03/2016.
See also alternative review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.
Showing on BFI Player from Thursday, July 20th, 2023.