The Book Of Life (1998)

HAL HARTLEY

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B

/USA, 1998. , , . Screenplay by Hal Hartley. Cinematography by . Produced by , , , , . Production Design by . Film Editing by .

Hal Hartley takes stock of millennium anxiety in this featurette shot on horribly ugly digital video. The apocalypse as described in the book of Revelations is upon us and Jesus Christ has returned to Earth to break the seals that will bring about the end of the world, showing up in the form of dressed in a blue suit with his best friend Magdalena () in tow. As they take stock of a technologically advanced world too cynical to appreciate the teachings of Christ in their pure and humane form, the Devil (portrayed by ) holes up in a fancy hotel bar with a gambling addict to discuss love and morality.

I’m sure Hartley has plenty to say about the disaffected nature of modern-day life as being incompatible with the kind of religious fanaticism that North Americans preach but don’t practice, but his quickly-made low budget curiosity is strictly for his most devoted fans, an experiment that has little more to offer than its clever conceit. Incisive self-examination is par for the course with Hartley’s characters and scripts, dull navel-gazing is not, making this film a very rare failure in the director’s impressive filmography of cool, intelligent underground experiences.

Toronto International Film Festival: 1998

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