Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Boss of it All: Grade A

The Boss of it All (2006)
Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler. Writer-Director: Lars von Trier. Danish, subtitled.

The owner (Gantzler) of a small, featureless IT company in Denmark is about to sell to an Icelandic buyer. The owner has always represented himself merely as the local manager, with the real boss being an American who never visits Denmark. That way he could avoid responsibility for implementing difficult decisions on his staff. He has over the years manufactured memos from the big boss. But the new buyer insists on signing with the big boss, so the owner hires an out of work actor (Albinus) to play the part, issuing him temporary power of attorney. The actor walks in totally unprepared but survives bizarre conversations in which he has no idea what is going on, by seeming skillfully terse. “Have you seen the numbers?” “Of course I’ve seen the numbers.” “Well, are they good?” “The numbers are shit.” “But your memo said they were good.” “Not good enough.” This is a funny premise and leads to many humorous and sophisticated scenes.

The main theme focuses on the employees’ helpless trust in the boss. There is an ethical subtheme about the owner’s duplicity. There is a satisfying denoument. The sets and colors are cold, like the work environment itself. It is snowing outside, the trees are bare, the walls are blue and the furniture is that God-awful teak and “7-chair” motif. Although that may be normal furniture in Denmark, it looked uncomfortable, cold and harsh. There was some interesting political hostility between the Icelandic buyer and the Danish owner, but not all of it was translated. I would have liked more focus on those tensions, but this is supposed to be a comedy. There was some deliciously ironic commentary on what constitutes good acting, which may have been the main point of the film, but the topic was not highlighted enough to make it shine. According to an interview in The Guardian, von Trier used an “Automavision” camera, in which a computer introduces arbitrary cuts and tilts into each scene, so the overall effect is jumpy, as if a really bad editor had been at work. Maybe it was a vaguely humorous allusion to von Trier's Dogma days. It was interesting, but I didn’t see how it contributed to this light, not-too-funny, but richly engaging comedy.

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