The Boss of It All
2006, NR, 100 min. Directed by Lars von Trier. Starring Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Benedikt Erlingsson, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iben Hjejle, Anders Hove, Henrik Prip, Mia Lyhne, Sofie Gråbø, Casper Christensen.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 31, 2007
Although he denies seeing an episode, British or American, one gets the impression that von Trier has been watching a lot of The Office of late. His new "comedy," The Boss of It All, veers drastically in tone from the Dane's recent, allegorical, English-language dramas (Manderlay, Dogville, Dancer in the Dark). This new film returns the filmmaker to a Danish-language picture and filmmaking on a smaller scale, and though the mood of The Boss of It All is definitely lighter than in his last few films, the term "comedy" might still be a stretch for those who respond negatively to von Trier's general misanthropy and corrosive sense of humor. Kristoffer (Albinus) is an out-of-work actor who is hired by Ravn (Gantzler) to pose as the director of a software firm. Ravn is actually the owner but, for whatever reason, has never revealed this fact to his staff. Now he wants to sell the firm, and he needs to manifest an actual director in order to accomplish the sale yet still maintain his secret. Enter clueless Kristoffer, who suffers a fate common to many actors: He comes to believe he is the character he plays. Gradually, Kristoffer learns that each member of the staff has a different impression of the boss, who they've been told lives in America but corresponds with each of them via e-mail (courtesy of Ravn). This leads to many complications and sexual opportunities, though his cover is frequently threatened by his ineptitude and total lack of knowledge about what the firm does. Von Trier can be seen in the reflection in a window during the film's opening moments as he delivers a voiceover that assures us that this will be a "cozy comedy." Since "cozy" is one of the last words one would think of to describe this prickly filmmaker, one suspects the wording is but one more example of his humor. More narratively modest than his recent work, The Boss of It All is something of a technological experiment. Von Trier uses a process he calls Automavision, in which a computer basically frames the shots, freeing the camera from what he terms "intention." The effect cuts off a lot of the actors' heads and limbs, and this nonhuman framing combines with the film's constant jump cuts to create something that is truly unsightly. There's a comment in here somewhere about leadership and authorship, and it's not that we're laughing too hard to fully comprehend it. In von Trier's world, the laugh is often on the audience, not with the audience. AFS@Dobie