36 user 23 critic

The Book of Life (1998)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Fantasy | 26 May 1999 (Belgium)
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 »


Hal Hartley


Hal Hartley (a film by)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Martin Donovan ... Jesus Christ
PJ Harvey ... Magdalena (as P.J. Harvey)
Dave Simonds ... Dave
Thomas Jay Ryan ... Satan
Miho Nikaido ... Edie
D.J. Mendel ... Lawyer
Katreen Hardt Katreen Hardt ... Receptionist
James Urbaniak ... True Believer
Anna Köhler Anna Köhler ... Hotel Clerk (as Anna Kohler)
Martin Pfefferkorn ... Martyr
Layla Alexander ... Waitress (as Olga Alexandrova)
Michael Ornstein ... Computer Wizard
Paul Albe Paul Albe ... Mormon Thug #1
Don Creech ... Mormon Thug #2
Joseph McKenna Joseph McKenna ... 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 <tjc217@is2.nyu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A darkly comic view of the Apocalypse. See more »


Comedy | Fantasy


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Jesus Christ: What would become of them, I wondered. In another 100 years, would they all be born in test-tubes? Or perhaps evolve through computers to become groups of disembodied, digital intelligence machines? Would they remember who I was? Would they remember what I said? Would it matter? Maybe someone else will come along and say pretty much the same thing. Would anyone notice? In a hundred years, would they be living on other planets? Would the Earth still exist? Would they engineer themselves ...
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Referenced in In a Savage Land: Cast and Crew Interviews (2001) See more »

User Reviews

Provocative and funny
2 May 2001 | by deedee2005See all my reviews

Unable to find a rental, I broke down and bought this film, and am delighted that I did. I've seen Martin Donovan only once before, in Onegin. I thought he was British! Surprise! There are so many great scenes and lines in The Book of Life, it would be impossible and unfair to list them all and I couldn't do it justice anyway. Jesus is portrayed as happy to be back among human beings helpless as they (we) are; he's compassionate, but weary of the job he's been charged to do. Who wouldn't be? And, God's kicked him out of heaven, for some reason which was not clear, or perhaps I missed. Another reason to be weary! Jesus and the devil have it out in a most amazing scene. Listen carefully, there are some great lines that are almost thrown away. I have one complaint that has to do with a common and incorrect reading of Scripture. Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute. She was possessed by demons which Jesus cast out, but she was NOT a prostitute. That was another woman.. .

This was also my first Hal Hartly film, and while I loved the antics, and interesting movements of the actors, the soundtrack, (P.J. Harvey singing "To Sir With Love" in the record store with music blasting in the background!) I was a little put off with the "ethereal" camera work. It definitely worked for certain moments, but I felt that it was somewhat distracting, and I wish this technique had been used a little less. I'm one of those whose optical nervous system can't handle broad sweeps or quick, jerky movements of camera work. Otherwise I give this film top rating, and am a new Hal Hartley fan.

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France | USA



Release Date:

26 May 1999 (Belgium) See more »

Also Known As:

The Book of Life See more »


Box Office


$350,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,814, 21 March 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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