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The owner of an IT firm wants to sell up. The trouble is that when he started his firm he invented a nonexistent company president to hide behind when unpopular steps needed taking. When potential purchasers insist on negotiating with the "Boss" face to face the owner has to take on a failed actor to play the part. The actor suddenly discovers he is a pawn in a game that goes on to sorely test his (lack of) moral fibre. Written by
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This movie is shot with camera technique called Automavision, an innovation in which the camera angles and movements are selected by a computer. The media notes explain technique, "a principle for shooting film developed with the intention of limiting human influence by inviting chance in from the cold". There are odd framings and jump cuts within scenes making everything seem a bit unsettled. See more »
Life may be 'just a Dogme film' but this is not. It's something new. And funny.
Try this. Let's imagine you really want to see a movie. Maybe this one. Nothing wrong with that. But maybe it's also your turn to do some cleaning - you can't remember - but why risk argument or ill-feeling? You decide it was my idea to see the film together. It would be rude to refuse. You're a nice person after all.
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 what he has said - 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 poses provocative moral dilemmas about how a boss can use fictions to mistreat workers.
Even as a comedy, the film works on several levels. It starts with a basic comedy structure where 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 at a gut level. 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. (Even the sex scenes are convincingly real, even while they are excruciatingly funny.)
For fans of von Trier's work, there are more subtle jokes. At the start, we hear von Trier's (uncredited) voice-over 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 like, "Life is a Dogme film" make us wonder how serious von Trier is as a philosopher, or whether it's a joke at our expense. He can be a bit like the Kristoffer character 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 and then every so often the Narrator returns to inject a Brechtian distance, reminding us that 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 the Bard 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 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.
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