With his latest film(review originally written a few years ago), Lars Von Trier shows us his lighter side albeit with his trademark weirdness and use of new directorial techniques. The Boss Of It All is the story of a man in a situation he has little or no grasp of, and the fun lies in how he handles himself when surrounding by unusual problems. Although, this being Von Trier, there is more going on than such a basic plot- The director himself interrupts the story at several points, giving the film the feeling of a ‘play within a play’. He is running the show for us, while the characters of Ravn and Svend try to run the show (in a dramatic and theatrical way) for their employees. To distance us further from a film with an everyday, realistic setting, Von trier makes sure every character is slightly unhinged (though endearing)and uses a camera technique known as Automavision. This (explained more fully on the DVD) is a technique whereby a camera is placed, a button on a computer is clicked, and the camera will pan, move, and zoom randomly within a shot, without the director having any influence. Some may say this is gimmicky, even lazy- taking away the director’s skill, but it adds to the absurdity the film- characters talking off screen, suddenly cuts and movements, and the camera framing only part of someone’s body. These restrictions are frequent in his work, and throughout the film there are self-referential moments- one character mentions live being like a Dogma film.
Ravn is the owner of a small, succesful IT company in Denmark. He is greedy though, and wants to sell to an Icelandic buyer and at the same time make sure that he gets all the credit and earnings from his employees’ work over the years. However, none of his co-workers know that he is the owner, and in order for the deal to take place, there must be an owner. He hires his friend Svend, a failed actor and lover of the mysterious Gambini to play the role of The Boss Of It All who after years of absence has decided to show his face. So far, so Shakespeare. Svend has no idea about IT, management, or indeed what his character is like or is supposed to have said or done in the past. This causes most of the laughs in the film. Little goes according to plan, and soon Svend grows to like his workers and doesn’t want to see them exploited.
The film has many zany and ironic moments, mostly to do with the work-place. Buzz-words are thrown about in such a way to show how silly they are (I am only too aware of 80-20 syndrome). Team meetings are shown as almost worthless, workers get screwed over repeatedly, and above it all is a Boss who just wants to be Your Friend- a big, cuddly bear, though he has done nothing to deserve it. Each of the characters is acted to perfection, and they all have their amusing quirks- from Mr ‘Autumn is muggy’ to Mrs ‘Scream when the photocopier starts’. They are all likeable, and for a comedy of this nature that is important. By the end of the film, with it’s slightly unexpected ending, Von Trier gives a little summary of the two ways we may feel when it is over; he was right.
The DVD contains a brief interview section, notes on Automavision, a gallery, and an interesting short film. For fans of European cinema, or offbeat comedies, this is sure to please. Von Trier fans may be split- it is not as dark or controversial as some previous films which people may or may not be happy about- but it is definately more accessible than some other efforts. If that means he finds a wider audience, then it can only be good.