“I bet all the people who died in the name of Loki the Norse God of Mischief would be pretty miffed if they knew it was all for nothing.” Filmmaker Matt Dallmann told me in an email. We were talking about his first feature The Third Testament.
Dallmann and I talked a bit about his view of organized religion. The Third Testament is a faux-documentary about a shocking archeological discovery, The Third Testament to the Bible.
“I’ve always been interested in religion,” Dallmann shared. “I’m actually a very secular person but have done a lot of research on the world’s many faiths.”
In Dallmann’s film the discovery of additional books that form what is dubbed a Third Testament causes a religious crisis for Christians.
“It has always been fascinating to me how faith has been the driving force behind most of the world’s politics for thousands of years.” Dallman elaborated. When making the little film, which he also wrote and produced, Dallmann researched the gospels of Mary and Thomas, as well as the bloodline of King Henry VIII together with the political figures of that time.
The Third Testament relies on the mockumentary style to tell an X-Files like story creating tension around the disappearance of a filmmaker, Jacob Matthews, documenting the exploits of a famous archeologist named Phineas Black. The movie uses a series of interviews with Black, who is now in prison, in an attempt to figure out what happened to the filmmaker. Skillfully, Director Dallmann makes the world the characters inhabit and the discovery of the new Biblical texts seem authentic.
The mock-doc style often most typified by This is Spinal Tap was not played for laughs here. Dallmann went for a hybrid of sorts mixing in serious drama and interesting thriller elements. And he had help from his wife, Amy Weins, who plays Carolyn in the film, the wife of the filmmaker who has disappeared. And Dallmann himself played Jacod Matthews, who is shown in archived footage and still photos in the film.
“[It] worked out very well because I was able to use footage from our wedding to make things look more authentic.”
But Dallmann candidly admitted that he wouldn’t cast himself and his wife together in another film.
“We’re both very strong willed, so, it got a little tense at times.” Dallmann half-joked. “But at the end of day, I got more support from my wife than I ever expected.”
Unlike a “found footage” mockumentary, Dallmann went another way. In Testatment a second documentary film crew engages in the search for the filmmaker that came before them. This intriguing gimmick was more than just a creative choice for Dallmann.
“Since we’re a small indie company, it was much easier/cheaper just to do a couple takes on a single master shot,” Dallmann admits, “rather than having to do two over the shoulder shots and a master, then a creative for each scene.”
Dallmann shot with the Red One much of the time, but used the Flip Video camera for security camera footage. This surprised me, because I had not thought of using the Flip for this purpose. The result is very good. At times, The Third Testament, has a number of different camera and stylistic choices on display at once. Dallman mixes electronic news gathering type footage together with security footage, peep/spy camera footage, and sharp looking documentary interview video from the Red to build an impressive looking film. He admits that matching so many different frame rates and video formats could have been impossible had he not had the mockumentary style to explain the lack of seamless transition from scene to scene.
But the technical specs of the film aside, most viewers will be interested in the religious positions taken in the narrative. Dallmann admits that the reaction of the religious community has been mixed.
“I tried to leave the meaning of the film up to interpretation.” Dallmann told me. “Some religious people have viewed it as threatening, while other people of faith have found it to be a great catalyst for faith-based discussion. One reviewer from a Christian conservative site loved the movie. Another was concerned it was promoting birth control too much. I think it’s great! The more discussion the better.”
The Third Testament will certainly spark discussion. You can get the movie on DVD by visiting the film’s website: www.ThirdTestamentTheMovie.com. It is also available on Amazon.com.