Review: Messiah (2016)


Director: Rob Lücker | 44 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Jappe Claes, Vincenzo Failla, Saman Amini, Mourade Zeguendi

In the One Night Stand series, young, promising Dutch filmmakers are given the opportunity to present themselves with a short feature film of approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Rob Lücker, known for the 3LAB series ‘Rundfunk’ (2015) and Golden Calf winner for the hilarious short film ‘Das Wad’ (2014), made the dark comedy film ‘Messias’ (2016), in which the Redeemer seems to have returned on earth. However, it turns out to be a boat refugee who has strayed from the route with divine long mane and ditto beard. Not that the bishop (played by the Flemish actor Jappe Claes) cares. Because, Lücker explains: “The characters are all opportunists who are at odds with each other because they have different interests. Everyone tries to harness the washed up Syrian. He himself is also an opportunist; after all, he is here for his own gain. ”

“Messiah” begins with a disconsolate service in a pompous Catholic Church. The only listener is a very old man, who gives a few cents to the ecclesiastical collection, creaking and squeaking with great pain and effort, before he literally falls over with a hard thud. Now that the last believer has died, dark clouds gather over the desperate bishop. Certainly when he receives the threat from the Supreme Cardinal in the Vatican (heavily emphasized role of Vincenzo Failla), if he does not quickly ensure that the church halls are full, he will be banished to hell called Siberia. A prayer for mercy seems, as if it were a miracle of God, to have a direct result when the bishop sees the messiah (Saman Amini) with a cross looming from the North Sea. This new Savior turns out to be a Syrian castaway, but the bishop knows a lot. He pampers the foundling, after which he has Rachid, the Muslim copper cleaner who had been hidden in the basement all this time (Mourade Zeguendi), to act as an interpreter – after all, he speaks Aramaic! The new-born messiah wants nothing more than to go to Lampedusa, where his wife and daughter are waiting for him. But before it gets that far, he first has to play the play …

“Messiah” has a baroque, kitschy and theatrical appearance, which provides a nice contrast with the dry humor behind all that excess. The fact that the Catholic Church is near death seems to the filmmaker a fait accompli. It is no coincidence that a Muslim of all people is called in to keep things together; Lücker thus underlines once again how absurd it really is that beliefs that have so many similarities with each other cause so much political unrest in the world. He also criticizes individualistic society, by having all characters act from an egocentric perspective. All in all, those are a lot deeper layers for a video of barely three quarters of an hour. But above all, “Messiah” puts a smile on your face. Absurdist and dryly funny, but also socially critical, although it could have been a bit sharper. “Messiah” may have a razor-thin plot and the characters are quite over the top, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.

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