Skip to main content

THE BOOK OF LIFE

USA / France, 1998 (MIFF 1999, 2000 seen by...)

Director: Hal Hartley

The celebrated Hal Hartley is the only American director who contributed to the 2000 Seen By... series. His The Book of Life gives a playful, irreverent and unorthodox account of the second coming of Jesus. This time around the Messiah is depicted as a slick young busi­nessman returning to the Earthly realm to kick start the Apocalypse.

An inexplicable feeling of doom hangs over the Big Apple as the millennial New Year's Eve looms. An anonymous gambler sits in a bar chatting with a wait­ress, who has a crush on him, and a bum {Henry Fool's Thomas Jay Ryan). This unassuming pan handler is in actuality Satan... undercover.

Meanwhile, Jesus (Hartley regular Martin Donovan) and his sexy personal assistant, Magdalena (rocker PJ Harvey), touch down at JFK Airport. Sent by the wrathful Father component of the Holy Trinity to loose the mystical seven seals on The Book of Life, Jesus is having misgivings about ending all existence. In our digital age The Book of Life is now a computer disc housed in a bowling alley locker, and Jesus is look­ing to roll the final strike.

The parallel action in the bar is an ongoing round of pseudo-philosophising and a poor man's Faustian pact which eventually dovetails into Jesus and Magdalena's mission when all the characters meet up in a hotel room.

See also...

HENRY FOOL

Henry Fool is a self-styled Intellectual whose proclamations ring with both truth and falsity. His arrival info the lives of a dysfunctional family signifies the beginning of delicate yet profound ... More »

THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH

Hal Hartley's feature debut takes us back to his native Long Island, where the lovely, 17-year-old Audry Hugo, a nuclearphobic high school senior falls madly in love with a perfectly chiselled auto ... More »

FAY GRIM

“You're a good woman, Fay. Someday when all this is over and we have destroyed Western civilization... ” Ten years have passed since Henry Fool. With Fay Grim, filmmaker Hal Hartley reunites us ... More »

SURVIVING DESIRE

Tude (Martin Donovan) is an over-educated literature professor, totally oblivious to the bored students pelting him with books. He is obsessed with a single passage from Dostoevsky's The Brothers ... More »

TRUST

After The Unbelievable Truth became one of the sleeper hits of last year, director Hal Hartley is back with another biting, provocative comedy of suburban middle America. With Trust Hal Hartley ... More »

AMATEUR

... ... Deadpan, fiercely cynical and extremely funny, Hal Hartley has cemented his reputa­tion as the US independent requiring the closest of scrutiny. This curious director creates a ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director