Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Boss Of It All (2006, Denmark/Sweden/Iceland/Italy/France/Norway/Finland/Germany, Lars von Trier)

Lars von Trier, the enfant terrible of European cinema, a director who is loved and loathed in equal measure and wants nothing else other than to wrong foot audiences who attempt to second guess his intentions, has done exactly that with 'The Boss Of It All', a comedy about office and corporate politics. This is a typically smart move having spent the past decade making films about female suffering ('Breaking The Waves', 'Dancer in the Dark') and satirising American values ('Dogville', 'Manderlay').

An actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) is hired to pretend to be the director of a Danish IT company that is to be sold to an Icelandic corporation. The real boss is apparently "inaccessible", so the success of this takeover rests in his hands. Kristoffer is a perfectionist who prepares with great care, even though he is told to stick to the script and keep it simple. His staff, a collection of eccentrics, initially doubt his credibility. They have never met their boss, but what they know of him, through their email "conversations" with him eventually land him in over his head. Kristoffer then has to maintain the facade as best he can whilst negotiating with the Icelandic buyers, as well as not revealing who the real "boss" is. This is naturally not as easy as he thinks.

von Trier always had a blackly comic streak - think of The Kingdom and The Idiots, but here the comedy is less cruel and more lightweight - Kristoffer's awkwardness at playing the role is in the current vogue of embarrassment as comedy, but it's never mean. Kristoffer's meetings with the "boss" take place in ridiculous places; a cinema, a garden centre and so on, and he finds himself unwittingly engaged to one member of staff, and then there's the cultural issues between Danes and Icelandics (Iceland had been ruled by Denmark for 400 years), as well as Kristoffer's preciousness as an actor.

von Trier has always been a director with a knack for using technical gimmicks, and this is no different. Here, he used technology named Automavision, in which shots are framed by the director but then computers choose when to tilt, pan or zoom, which dispenses with the cameraman altogether. Certain framings and cuts do not conventionally work as a result. It's an interesting method of filming.

For a film with such a short running time, the film's climax seems a bit too drawn out, which gives the impression that the central conceit of the film is perhaps a bit flimsy and had to be fleshed out to make it feature length. Regardless of this, 'The Boss Of It All' is very funny, and though it makes a few general satirical points, it never feels as if von Trier is being heavy handed or weighed down by them. A diverting interlude before the third instalment of the Land of Opportunities Trilogy ('Wasington' being the third part). 3.5/5

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Hi,

I saw The Boss of it all today and enjoyed it too. Checking out the Directors Wikipedia page, I read that the final instalment of the Land of Opportunities Trilogy - 'Washington' - has been 'shelved indefinitely'.

Steve