The Boss Of It All

2006, Movie, NR, 99 mins


If Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, the prickly, contrarian architect of the Dogma 95 vow of cinematic chastity, had directed Remington Steele… the universe as we know it would probably have imploded. But the premise of his dry workplace comedy does recall the '80s sitcom: An entrepreneur hires an actor to impersonate a nonexistent CEO, only to find that the fake boss is as trying as a real one.

For years, Ravn (Peter Gantzler) has duped the staff of the IT firm he founded into believing he's just another employee and that all those unpopular decisions are made by a mysterious "boss of it all" who spends most of his time in the U.S. Ravn has always stood in for the big man at crucial meetings, but he's trying to close a deal with belligerent, Dane-hating Finnur Siggurdson (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson), and Finnur doesn't negotiate with "stooges." Finnur will only deal directly with the company's president, so Ravn hires an acquaintance — chronically underemployed actor Kristoffer (Jens Albinus, the pompous street performer "Stoffer" of von Trier's THE IDIOTS) — to play him at a couple of important meetings. Unfortunately, the staff catch wind that their elusive boss is in town and Kristoffer is forced to continue the masquerade far longer and in greater depth that either he or Ravn had intended. Kristoffer doesn't know the first thing about the company or the fictitious boss Ravn hired him to impersonate: He can't answer the first question the staff asks — his name. But he rises, if that's the word, to the occasion, alternately lecturing, browbeating and ignoring the employees. Once Kristoffer realizes Ravn hasn't been honest about the nature of the deal with Finnur — and other things as well — he starts trying to manipulate matters he doesn't understand: Droll, cruel complications ensue.

Von Trier has joked that he's been making the same story — an idealist wreaks havoc despite his or her best intentions — for his entire career, and though THE BOSS OF IT ALL is one of his frothier variations on the theme, it's still cynical, misanthropic and embittered. Von Trier delivers some rueful, strangled laughs, most driven by the simmering guerrilla war between employees and management, and isn't above needling himself: "Life is a Dogma film — it's hard to hear," says one character. "But the words are still important." How chaste. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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The Boss Of It All
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