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The Book of Life (1998)

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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 1,426 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 22 critic

The end of the millenium has taken on a certain significance in modern day prophecies. What happens if Jesus Christ has second thoughts about the Apocalypse? It is December 31, 1999 and New... See full summary »



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Title: The Book of Life (1998)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Jay Ryan ...
Miho Nikaido ...
Katreen Hardt ...
True Believer
Anna Köhler ...
Hotel Clerk (as Anna Kohler)
Waitress (as Olga Alexandrova)
Computer Wizard
Paul Albe ...
Mormon Thug #1
Mormon Thug #2
Man at Airport


The end of the millenium has taken on a certain significance in modern day prophecies. What happens if Jesus Christ has second thoughts about the Apocalypse? It is December 31, 1999 and New Year's Eve takes on new meaning when the Devil, Jesus Christ, and Christ's assistant Magdelina discuss and debate the end of the world, the opening of the seven seals, and the essence of being human. Written by Tracy <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A controversial retelling of the Apocalypse


Comedy | Fantasy


Not Rated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

26 May 1999 (Belgium)  »

Also Known As:

The Book of Life  »

Box Office


$350,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Edie: Are you really the Devil?
Satan: Yes.
Edie: Would you like some soup?
[Satan looks completely baffled]
Dave: She's a Buddhist.
See more »

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User Reviews

The previous review does a disservice
14 November 2001 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

I just saw Hal Hartley's 'The Book of Life', and while not out-and-out my favorite Hal Hartley film, it has all the charm one can expect from his work.

Another reviewer complains of "predictable" and "unbelievably straightforward" (not sure what he means) jokes, and a plot that "rumbles on from one event to the next" (again, not sure how that is bad), but this is not a plot-driven or joke-driven film. It is idea-driven, and brilliantly so, as most of Hartley's films are. The film is only a few minutes more than an hour long, but it has more ideas contained within it than most feature length films. Even though he claims that "Hal" ought to have known better, and relays his experience that acting in Hartley's films is "peculiar", the other reviewer does not seem to truly be familiar with this director. If this person was, it would seem less likely that they would denigrate the performances in the film, which are quintessentially Hartley-esque.

Martin Donovan, who is a treat to watch in any film but particularly in his element when working with Hartley, plays a disillusioned Jesus, who has arrived in New York with his assistant, Magdalena, on the eve of the millenium to open the final three seals on the book of life, and reluctantly unleash the Apocalypse. Satan, played by 'Henry Fool''s Thomas Jay Ryan, is also lurking about in NYC, continuing to trap souls, and grousing about the coming apocalypse, albeit for different reasons than Jesus. Although Jesus and Satan are iconic characters, this film, as one would expect from a Hal Hartley scenario, chooses instead to base it's characterizations of them on their human qualities, placing them under, rather than outside, the influence of humanity.

I believe that anyone who appreciates Hal Hartley's work, or who appreciates smaller, more thought-provoking films, would find plenty to rejoice about in "The Book of Life".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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