Boss Of It All

aka DIREKTØREN FOR DET HELE

Movie Review by Samuel Taradash

Starring: Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzier, Thor Fridriksson, Iben Hjejle
Director: Lars Von Trier

Who is in control? Who will take responsibility? Who will take the fall? In Lars von Trier’s latest film, THE BOSS OF IT ALL, the nature of control and responsibility are taken as the basis for his self-proclaimed “harmless comedy”. A world away from DANCER IN THE DARK, its a brisk, crisp film whose laughs may not find everyone in the audience.

Out of work actor Kristoffer (Jens Albinus, THE IDIOTS, DANCER IN THE DARK) has taken a simple role, the president of a Danish IT company about to sell the firm. But the firm is real, having been run from behind the scenes by Ravn (Peter Gansler, SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW, THE LOST TREASURE OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR) since its inception. Ravn created an imaginary president, “The Boss of it All,” who supposedly runs the company from abroad. But when a no-nonsense curmudgeon (Fredrik Thor Fridriksson, director of NICELAND (POPULATION 1,000,002) and ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE) insists on meeting with the president in person to negotiate the company’s sale, Kristoffer is hired to play the role, where all his troubles begin. In the attempt to rule without ruling, Ravn has presented wildly different versions of an imagined Boss to each of the company employees. Now that Kristoffer is there to embody his identity, the office becomes an out-of-control psychodrama.

In the weirdly dysfunctional workplace (are there any others in film or TV anymore?), the actors play their parts with a great deal more restraint than one might expect, and to enjoyable comedic effect. Despite outbursts of tears, violence, and a strangely dominant request from a position of submission, the cast does an excellent job maintaining the level of claustrophobia and tension of a closed work environment. Each new conversation provides a fresh opportunity for some new calamity to befall Kristoffer.

The feeling of instability and unease is enhanced by von Trier’s director of cinematography: Automavision®, “a stochastic variable” expressed as a computer controlled camera system. Once the shot was framed by the director, the system randomly changed a set of 6 filming parameters, including the depth of focus, aperture and even the direction of the camera for every single take. Actors are rarely centred on-screen, and are often cropped irregularly. Tops of heads, arms and shoulders, hands, ears and faces are all left in or out of shots at random, creating an interesting and energetic effect. Shot using only available light on-set, the film jerks our perception of reality around almost as constantly as the story does to Kristoffer.

This is the first project made as a part of von Trier’s attempt “to rediscover [his] original enthusiasm for film”, and a distinct sense of amusement permeates the film. Within the rules of the story, as well as within the filmic rules he’s set down for himself, von Trier is clearly playing with a number of different ideas. But his fun and games may not be appreciated by audiences looking for something like the comedy series THE OFFICE, which shares a similar setting but a profoundly different aim. Technically, THE BOSS OF IT ALL is a fascinating film with a precisely constructed air of anarchy and chaos. But just as the director has narrowed his focus, production goals and PR efforts, he may also have reduced the numbers of filmgoers who will appreciate this intricately assembled piece of clockwork anarchy.

4 out of 6 stars

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