The Boss of It All (Direktøren for det hele)
The Boss of It All (Direktøren for det hele) is a straight up comedy from Lars von Trier, or so we're led to believe. In fact it is actually pretty much that, but hidden within are plenty of messages about the human condition and a few interesting japes at actors, companies and how the operate.
The film sees a company on the brink of being sold, encountering a small stumbling block. You see the owner of the company has been pretending that he's not the owner at all, that there's another boss above him, in order to avoid being blamed for the difficult and harsh decisions to be made. However now the boss needs to sign over the company, and so he hires an out of work actor to play the role.
However things don't quite work out according to plan, and instead of bringing in the actor to sign the deal, he now has to hang around the offices for a week pretending to be a character he knows nothing about and seems to be different things to different workers. The more he gets involved with the character and the employees, the more he decides that the sale isn't a good idea, and the boss' plan is soon backfiring.
The film has a great concept, simple, but very clever and very amusing. It does provide for a few moments of big laughs, and I certainly did. I'm not going to tell you all about them for fear I temper the joke, instead it's enough to say that there will be sniggers and a few good laugh out loud moments to boot.
These laugh out loud moments show that the script is rather clever as well as being witty. It creates some interesting characters and stereotypes, as well as engineering some amusing moments between them. What I found particularly enjoyable was the way in which the actor portrayed himself, steeped in his own egotistical belief of his acting ability, when really he's a terrible actor. At time he would leap into a discussion about the art of acting, becoming animated and excited, and when he was called on to actually practice that art he seemed totally incompetent.
There's also the relationships between the employees and the Boss of It All, these are amusing to watch develop because each of the employees has been told different things about the fictional boss, they've been told what they want to hear and what will motivate them to continue working.
So you can see the relationships play out in different ways, as this poor actor, with no understanding of what the relationships are or who his character is, struggles to keep up with the ever changing character.
From these aspects the film is enjoyable, and the small confines of the story give it an additional interest. Yet none of these are explored in any depth, they're all touched on just for the superficial comic moments and the film delivers little more.
Then there are two very strange aspects of the film, both of which I felt detracted from enjoying the actual story and the performances.
For whenever I felt myself being drawn into the characters and the story, something would happen within the film-making process itself to pull you back out and remind you that you're watching a film, and that none of this is real, and these attempts at something new, something artistic, just harm the story and distance you from it.
The first thing I found both irritating and obtrusive to the film was the Director's voice over, for at a couple of points in the film Lars von Trier leaps into the story and gives us some commentary on the characters or the film. It's as though he wants to remind us that it is in fact a film and pull us back away from the story.
It's something that is most obvious in his use of the trademarked Automavision, a way of giving over each shot to random choice. The camera is setup and limits of framing and lighting are set, then the rest is left to a computer to randomly choose. This means that in any shot the central focus of the scene could have their head slightly chopped off, be at the far end of the screen with empty space in the rest of the shot, or even just appearing as a head in the bottom of the picture. Not only that but between shots in a single scene the lighting can be changing randomly between dark and light.
With so many of these randomly selected shots to choose from the Director has included more than seems to be needed and this has resulted in far too many cuts, and these tend to be jump cuts, giving the viewer a feeling of being jarred within the scene and once again pushed away from the story. It's as though the camera is vying for the audience's attention more than the film.
However the comedy of the situation does still come through, and if it weren't for these moments perhaps the comic breaks wouldn't have felt so strong, maybe the distractions from the story helped the better scenes stand out more.
I'm sure that Lars von Trier fans will be absorbed by the artistic values of the film, whereas standard audience members might be finding that these things are all a distraction from the actual thing they've paid to see.