Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Boss Of It All (2006) Film Review
The owner of a Danish IT company wants to sell up. There is only one problem. When he started the company he invented an imaginary boss to take the rap for unpopular decisions. So no one has ever met the 'boss of it all' until now. The Icelanders doing the buying insist on dealing with the actual boss. So he hires an actor.
The actor, Kristoffer or 'Svend E' knows nothing about the company and finds the buyers are not the only ones he has to bluff convincingly. Over the years, he has 'sent' emails to the staff who start holding him responsible for them - and, of course, he does not know what he's meant to have said. Ravn, the real owner, can't remember but there was some serious stuff going down.
A hilarious screwball comedy, The Boss of It All also presents provocative moral dilemmas about how a boss can use fiction to mistreat workers.
Even as comedy, the film works on several levels. It starts with a basic comedy structure, whereby we know something most of the characters don't. Kristoffer is the butt of the jokes but we want him to win. We want him to guess what he has supposed to have said and somehow turn it to his advantage. All this provides belly laughs. Especially when he is accused of "lousy acting" by a woman who does not know he is acting and means something else, or when he 'has' to have raunchy sex with her. (The sex scenes are convincingly real - and excruciatingly funny.)
For fans of von Trier's work, there are more subtle jokes. At the start, we hear von Trier's (uncredited) voiceover pointing out we can just about see his (physical) reflection. But the film, he says, is not worth a moment's reflection as it's comedy. It's as if someone had said: "Whatever you do, don't think of 'X'". Immediately, that's what you think about.
Von Trier is the man who 'invented' Dogme95 cinema, the back-to-basics arbitrary rules that included 'The director must not be credited' - itself a pun on the theme of the film. Lines such as: "Life is a Dogme film" make us wonder whether von Trier is seriously philosophising, or whether it's a joke at our expense. He can be a bit like Kristoffer, who gleefully insinuates: "I'm better at being irritating on an intuitive level."
Then there are jokes about Danes (who are traditionally afraid of conflict - it is very 'un-Danish' to be 'bad cop') and gags that play on a historical power struggle between Denmark and Iceland. The many levels all work so fast that everyone can be laughing at something different at any one time.
Structurally, the movie dazzles. It gets seriously into screwball mode, then every so often the Narrator returns to inject a Brechtian distance, reminding us it is fiction, making us think about how it comments on the real world or insidious office politics. We feel a tension, a need to get away from serious thought and just find out what happens.
The narrator bows to our desires and promises, god-like, to resolve the dramatic tensions. (Fans of Shakespeare will recall how he would use a narrator to draw attention to what we were experiencing and so encourage us to analyse it. The narrator, in Shakespeare's plays as in The Boss of It All, could be the true boss, telling us what is really happening beneath the surface.) And the dramatic ending will have you clinging to your seat. Hold on to your sides cos if you laugh too much you might miss something.
Ever the creator of some new cinematic technique, von Trier has committed the movie's cinematography to a (published) mathematical formula and principle called 'Automavision'. This is designed to 'limit human interference' and free the work from the force of habit and aesthetics. As with Dogme95, no doubt half the film community will ask if he is serious while another sector will go off and studiously practice it. As an added fillip, Danish fans can play 'Lookey' to find hidden visual elements out of context in the movie and the first winner gets to be an extra in the next film.
Von Trier has also devised a new ascetic aesthetic to 'rediscover his original enthusiasm for film.' And he's tired of playing 'bad cop' in professional relationships while other people get to be 'good cop' and nice to everyone, yet this master of intellectual creation has taken the experience as inspiration for the film, "poking fun at artsy-fartsy culture."
They sometimes say that if God didn't exist you'd have to invent him. Sometimes you just need to know who you are dealing with. You need The Boss of it All. At least in this film Lars von Trier credits himself as Director. Not since The Five Obstructions has the question of authorship been so seriously questioned. Even the character of the actor, who wields enormous power, has to consult his 'character' on how things should proceed.
From such serious polemics as Dogville and Manderlay, the cowboy romp of Dear Wendy, the quasi philosophy of The Idiots, and the serious mainstream challenges of Dancer In The Dark and Breaking the Waves, one of the most original creative forces in contemporary cinema has turned his technical genius to pure comedy. Gainsayers will still call him pretentious, but they may laugh their socks off before they find out who's telling the joke.Reviewed on: 19 Feb 2007