The Boss Of It All

In which Lars von Trier discovers his funny bone. Admittedly, that shouldn't be such a shock — you could certainly argue that The Idiots was ostensibly a comedy, and even Bergman had his lighter moments — but it still seems somehow unlikely that the man behind Dogville, Breaking The Waves and the whole Dogme movement (a Danish word meaning 'pretentious unwatchable art wank') could turn his hand to something so, well, light and fun and agreeable.

Of course, von Trier can't leave it at that and pops up to offer voiceovers and asides, and uses random camera locations rather than conventional set-ups which wouldn't, for example, cut off the actors' heads or leave them out of shot. Of course he couldn't. That would have been normal and would have just resulted in a delightful comedy. This way, he gets to unsettle the masses, maintain his appeal to beard-stroking tossers and art students and come damn close to sinking an otherwise excellent film.

'This film won’t be worth a moment’s reflection,' the smug director announces as the film opens, 'it's a comedy, and harmless as such.' Exactly Lars, so why not just leave it alone and let the story work its undeniable charm? We know it's a comedy. You know it's a comedy. If you don't like the fact that it's a comedy, and feel the need to undermine it and the sort of people who like comedies from the off, why make it in the first place?

The story itself is a good one. Ravn (Gantzler) is the head of an IT company. Having got close to his employees, Ravn wants to be liked by his workers so he's invented a fictional superior — the boss of it all — who makes all the decisions that would otherwise make Ravn unpopular. However, with a buyer lined up for the company, this boss has to make an appearance, so Ravn has hired an out-of-work actor (Albinus) to play the part. It should be a simple transaction but the actor is a little more 'method' than that, and starts to build his role.

It's pure farce, or would be if von Trier allowed it to follow its course. Instead, as the boss of it all himself becomes a popular part of the company, and the comedy potential builds, the director's asides, explanations and voiceovers destroy the momentum. Worse, his implication that it's 'just' a comedy suggests that if you're enjoying it at that level, why, then you're obviously stupid, boringly mainstream and clearly inferior to the director and his inevitable arse-licking retinue of beard-stroking tossers and art students. Remove the smugness — or fast forward it on DVD — and you've got a cracking comedy of manners. In current form, though, it's a frustrating experience.

Official Site
The Boss Of It All at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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