The Boss of it All
After watching a few of his films – or reading a bit about him – you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that perhaps Lars von Trier takes himself a little too seriously. And then he comes out with a film like The Boss of It All. All irony and self parody/mockery, von Trier’s most accessible film to date is a cleverly crafted farce which the director claims, in a self voiced introduction, is effectively a piece of nothing:
“Although you see my reflection, trust me, this film won’t be worth a moment’s reflection”
Of course we don’t believe him for a second and, upon finishing our viewing, realise that he has made an intelligently layered satirical comedy that pokes fun at corporate business practice, Danish cultural mores, the film industry and (most of all) himself.
The Boss of It All is set in a small Danish IT firm run by a man named Ravn (Peter Gantzler – Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Italian for Beginners). Ravn is in fact the owner/director of the company but he has fashioned an imaginary director he calls “the boss of it all” to use as a scapegoat when making hard or unpopular business decisions; a mechanism that has enabled him to maintain the trust and love of his ‘fellow employees’. We enter the scenario where Ravn now wants to sell the company to an Icelandic competitor. However, the Icelander – who despise Danes and their sentimentality – will only deal with the overall boss and so Ravn, not wanting to forego his conceit, is forced to hire an out of work actor, Kristoffer (von Trier regular Jens Albinus – The Idiots, Dancer in the Dark) to play this ‘boss’ during the negotiations. The comedy rolls out as Kristoffer aka Svend E. aka “The Boss of It All” muddles his way through a series of relationship and business scenarios about which he clearly has no knowledge. Luckily for him the company employees – The Six (the original six employee who developed the company’s home grown software packages) – are a dysfunctional and sentimental bunch who over read his responses to suit their preformed ideas about this nasty absent boss (primarily via emails Ravn has sent them under the boss’ guise). Kristoffer slowly becomes aware of Ravn’s less than benign duplicity and hope to thwarts his plans to leave the rest of the company high and dry. The question is: can Kristoffer overcome his own self absorption and absurdist approach to life/acting and save the day? Only ‘Gambini’ (his theatrical idol) knows…
Not an OTT laugh out loud kind of comedy, The Boss of It All moves us to laugh by its absurd situations, and clever, and often embarrassing, character interactions. In his featurette segment von Trier says that his favourite comedies are the not the ones that make you laugh the most but those that make you laugh a little, make you feel good, and make a complex story seem simple. And as much as the director insists that this film will leave you with nothing to take away from it (he even says near the end that if any viewer “got what they came for [then they] deserve it”!) the film does give you plenty of material to mull over, even if it is on a much lighter scale than his previous cinematic offerings.
To add that characteristic Lars von Trier oddness, the director employs the use of a system called “Automavision” in which shot set-ups and editing choices (within a set of given parameters) are made randomly by a piece of computer software. This makes for an oddly disjointed viewing experience, but if you didn’t know about it beforehand you may find it hard to put your finger on what was ‘wrong’. To a degree this can be seen as a gimmick, though von Trier states that it is a way of taking some of the human influence away from the production process and introducing an element of ‘chance’. To me the film’s plot mirrors this highlighted production method, in that Lars von Trier is in a way saying that the Automavision is “The Boss of It All”, abdicating a certain amount of responsibility for the final theatrical product; but the fact remains that he IS the director, he IS making the decisions, and he IS even setting the parameters within which the Automavision setup operates. Genius!
As a comedy The Boss of It All succeeds quite well, but for all its slyness does not quite produce the level of compulsion and questioning that characterises great von Trier (eg: Breaking the Waves & Dogville). However, even average von Trier is the equal of most filmmakers’ best efforts meaning this film is definitely worthy viewing. Those who prefer their comedies minus the likes of Adam Sandler, Jack Black, or Jim Carrey may find this an unusual treat to savour of an evening.
DVD Info + Special Features
For a single disc release, this Directors Suite edition DVD puts in a good haul of very amusing featurettes; in line with von Trier’s irony laden film. The first two featurettes (Actors/Foreigners) gives a mockumentary style set of interviews with the various players who wax lyrical about various faux intrigues, personality quirks, and what it is like to work with the great von Trier. Very nice. I found some parts of these funnier than much of the feature itself. The making of and director interviews provide the usual interesting tidbits whereas the Automavision segment is something unique that shines a light onto the warped mind of the filmmaker and the kinds of constraints he puts on his work to try and engage the media creatively.
Sound and picture are generally crisp and clear but nothing showy in keeping with the general aesthetic of the production. All in all this is a satisfying DVD release at a good price – a must for von Trier fans or those interested in engaging world cinema at the lighter end of the spectrum (if von Trier can possibly be put at that end!)
» Region 4 PAL
» Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9
» Language: Danish (Monaural)
» Subtitles: English
» The Actors (And the Journalist) of It All
» The Foreigners of It All
» The Director of It All
» Automavision: The New Dogma
» Original Theatrical trailer
Reviewed by: Jacob Powell
Rating: M – contains sex scenes and offensive language
Duration: 87 min (Feature), 48 min (bonus material)
Genre: Avant-garde comedy
Director: Lars von Trier (2006)
Actors: Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iben Hjejle, Benedikt Erlingsson, Henrik Prip, Mia Lyhne, Casper Christensen, Louise Mieritz, Jean-Marc Barr, Sofie Gråbøl, & Anders Hove.
Distributor: Madman (Directors Suite Release)