The Boss Of It All Review
Humour is perhaps not a characteristic often associated with the films of Lars von Trier, but anyone who has listened to any interviews or DVD commentaries, or picked up on the satirical tone of The Kingdom, The Idiots or even Dogville, will know that Trier doesn’t take himself too seriously and that his films are liberally dosed in comic touches, even if his idea of humour is gleeful subversion through satire and heavy sarcasm. The Boss Of It All (Direktøren for det hele) is however the director’s first outright comedy film, one for which he returns to working in his native Danish after a long absence. Hitting a creative wall after Manderlay - or perhaps disappointed at not really stirring up enough controversy this time around - The Boss Of It All is an attempt by the director to creatively revitalise himself before tackling the final part of his “USA – Land of Opportunities” trilogy (which, in the event, will now take place after Trier’s next project The Antichrist).
Satire is the name of the game in The Boss Of It All, but like all the best satires, there is more than one level on which its debunking of office politics can be read and Trier doesn’t miss too many targets. What if it were possible - the film asks - to be a boss, but only be the good guy who everyone loves and admires, never the one who brings bad news, or has to reprimand and fire staff? Ravn (Peter Gantzler) thinks he has the answer to that question when he sets up a business pretending to be only the company lawyer, blaming any unpopular decisions on “the boss of it all” in the United States.
There is however one particularly difficult task that the boss has to perform in person, which is the selling off of the entire company to an Icelandic businessman (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson), who insists that he deals with the organ-grinder and not the monkey. Ravn hires an actor friend to assume the role, assuring him that it’s the greatest part any actor could ever play. The role requires Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) not just to fool the Icelandic Chief Executive long enough to sign the deal, but he has to also convince the company’s six senior managers that he is indeed “the boss of it all”. These are skills however that just might be beyond the limited range of the perplexed Kristoffer - a disciple (perhaps the only one) of an obscure playwright called Gambini.
Just to add further to Kristoffer’s dilemma (and to the delightful screwball nature of the film), Ravn has however fashioned a different version of “the boss of it all” to suit each of the Six Seniors. Kristoffer consequently has a rather tough job to keep each of them happy without appearing contradictory to the others, without even knowing what image each of the Seniors have of him, and without really having any grasp of what the Brooker 5 IT Project they have been working on is all about. The Boss Of It All is then a true farce in every respect, indiscriminately taking potshots at everyone in sight – at big business, at office politics, at actors, country bumpkins, typically Danish characteristics and their sense of humour. As he has shown in previous films, Trier also knows how to stir up controversy and hit where it hurts, but is also not afraid to make fun of himself.
As something of a boss himself, both in his relationship with actors as well as in the setting up of the Zentropa film production company, there’s a certain amount of self-referencing and self-deprecation thrown into the mix here as well and, inevitably with this particular director – as indicated by occasional in-between monologues – there’s a meta-dimension and a bit of a personal challenge involved. The gimmick this time around is Trier’s “Automavision” concept, allowing a computer to randomly select camera angles, taking no responsibility himself for directing the camera shots, but leaving it to an impersonal IT “boss”. In practice, this doesn’t really add a great deal to the film, or detract from it either, but if it revitalises the director and takes him on to the next stage of his career, then we should be happy to indulge him. It’s not particularly high-concept this time around for Lars von Trier, but at the very least, as a comedy film, The Boss Of It All should be funny. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint on that score at all.
The Boss Of It All is released in the UK by Diffusion. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, in PAL format and is encoded for Region 2.
The image is not of the highest quality, but using shots selected randomly with sometimes inappropriate framing and lighting, neither is it meant to be. Hence deep blues and shadow detail tend to shimmer and break up a bit, particularly in underlit interiors. Other than that however, there is little to fault with the image quality, which is much how it is intended to look and often very clear with good tones. Surprisingly however, the transfer is letterboxed and non-anamorphic. One doubts that the image would look much better with 16:9 enhancement, but it would seem that other international editions of the film on DVD are indeed anamorphic, so this is disappointing.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is recorded under similar constrictions to the Automavision process. It’s clear, functional and gets the job done and gets it done reasonably well, but there’s not much else you can say about it.
English subtitles are provided and seem to capture the humour of the script as well as can be managed within the limitations of the national humour and in-jokes. While they are clear, in a white font and easily read, the subtitles however are rather large and, fixed on the transfer, they cannot be removed.
Interviews and Behind The Scenes (9:52)
Lars von Trier talks briefly about the idea behind the film, working in Danish and his love for screwball comedies, as well as how the Automavision concept worked (or didn’t). Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler and members of the crew also provide input on the filmmaking process for the film.
Short Film: The Sickie (13:46)
Keeping with the office theme, Diffusion have included a 2006 short film by Rupert Jones where a harried office worker, pushed one step too far tries to pull a sickie, but finds his indispensability makes the lure of the office too strong to resist. Stars the wonderful Toby Jones (Infamous). Presented in an anamorphic transfer (all the extras are anamorphic, but not the feature film), the image quality is flawless.
A few text pages explain the shooting process in The Boss Of It All, where a randomised angles are selected on a fixed camera position. It’s certainly the most random constraint used by Trier in his films.
Five stills are shown in a 50 second slideshow.
Inevitably, even doing a straightforward comedy film, Lars von Trier can’t help but play around with meta-narratives and filmmaking concepts, but more importantly the essential humour and satire of The Boss Of It All is strong and entertaining. Diffusion’s releases can usually be relied upon for good transfers and extra features and, but for the disappointing decision to go with a non-anamorphic transfer and fixed subtitles, the transfer is as good as the film allows and the extra features are light but informative.