In his latest film, Lars von Trier uses a metafictional approach to deliver a satirical narrative. That is to say, he tells us that he’s telling us a story, and how. Sort of. The Boss of it All begins with the narrator, perhaps von Trier himself, letting us in on the joke, as he tells us his film is not to be taken seriously, nor is any serious meaning to be taken from it. Just another typical story with the usual parts and players, he continues, having fun as he once again blows apart the apparatus of conventional storytelling.
The boss of an IT corporation hires an actor to pretend that he is the boss of the company during an important negotiation to sell the company off. Circumstances become complicated as the real “boss of it all” and the actor pretending to be “the boss of it all” begin to butt heads about how things should be handled. Romance and sexual exploits also crop up as office workers in the company mistake the actor for someone else, and tensions between the owner of the Icelandic corporation intending to buy the IT corp. and “the boss of it all” escalate.
Von Trier lets us in on the game in this film as it periodically describes its own constructs. But this apparent self-consciousness is misleading. While the film gives the impression of letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak, the comedic tension is never lost and the narrative continues to move forward. The simultaneous accomplishment of poking fun at the process of drawing in an audience with all the typical and corny constructs of storytelling and then drawing the audience into a corny, constructed story, is quite a statement.
Another interesting effect in this film is the fine line between what the actors are going through and what the characters are going through. It is almost as if the actors are waiting for the director to fill them in on what the story is or where it is heading next, rather than the employees at the company being confused about who their boss is. This is a wonderful illusion, or perhaps not, that helps to create the feeling that no one knows what is going to happen next, neither the audience nor the actors, as the story whimsically and absurdly changes direction at various moments.
I thought the film was successful in managing these different elements, blending a seemingly loose and spontaneous style with a deceptively well-controlled narrative, and tight, well-acted scenes, all of which climax in a humorous and touching ending, albeit a self-conscious one. Well written and directed, this movie is just fun to watch, and at times laugh out loud funny. It was a big hit at the Pusan Film Festival this year and I recommend seeing it.
Written by Carlito de Corea