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Reviews & Ratings for
The Boss of It All More at IMDbPro »Direktøren for det hele (original title)

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67 out of 80 people found the following review useful:

Life may be 'just a Dogme film' but this is not. It's something new. And funny.

10/10
Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
18 February 2007

Try this. Let's imagine you really want to see a movie. Maybe this one. Nothing wrong with that. But maybe it's also your turn to do some cleaning - you can't remember - but why risk argument or ill-feeling? You decide it was my idea to see the film together. It would be rude to refuse. You're a nice person after all.

The owner of a Danish IT company wants to sell up. There is only one problem. When he started the company he invented an imaginary boss to take the rap for unpopular decisions. So no-one has ever met the 'boss of it all' until now. The Icelanders doing the buying insist on dealing with the actual boss. So he hires an actor.

The actor, Kristoffer or 'Svend E' knows nothing about the company and finds the buyers are not the only ones he has to bluff convincingly. Over the years, he has 'sent' emails to the staff who start holding him responsible for what he has said - and of course he does not know what he's meant to have said. Ravn, the real owner, can't remember but there was some serious stuff going down. A hilarious screwball comedy, The Boss of It All also poses provocative moral dilemmas about how a boss can use fictions to mistreat workers.

Even as a comedy, the film works on several levels. It starts with a basic comedy structure where we know something most of the characters don't. Kristoffer is the butt of the jokes but we want him to win. We want him to guess what he has supposed to have said and somehow turn it to his advantage. All this provides belly laughs at a gut level. Especially when he is accused of 'lousy acting' by a woman who does not know he is acting and means something else, or when he 'has' to have raunchy sex with her. (Even the sex scenes are convincingly real, even while they are excruciatingly funny.)

For fans of von Trier's work, there are more subtle jokes. At the start, we hear von Trier's (uncredited) voice-over pointing out we can just about see his (physical) reflection. But the film, he says, is not worth a moment's reflection as it's comedy. It's as if someone had said, "Whatever you do, don't think of 'x'". Immediately, that's what you think about. Von Trier is the man who 'invented' Dogme95 cinema, the back-to-basics arbitrary rules that included 'The director must not be credited' - itself a pun on the theme of the film. Lines like, "Life is a Dogme film" make us wonder how serious von Trier is as a philosopher, or whether it's a joke at our expense. He can be a bit like the Kristoffer character who gleefully insinuates, "I'm better at being irritating on an intuitive level." Then there are jokes about Danes (who are traditionally afraid of conflict - it is very 'un-Danish to be 'bad cop') and gags that play on a historical power struggle between Denmark and Iceland. The many levels all work so fast that everyone can be laughing at something different at any one time.

Structurally, the movie dazzles. It gets seriously into screwball mode and then every so often the Narrator returns to inject a Brechtian distance, reminding us that it is fiction, making us think about how it comments on the real world or insidious office politics. We feel a tension, a need to get away from serious thought and just find out what happens. The narrator bows to our desires and promises, god-like, to resolve the dramatic tensions. (Fans of Shakespeare will recall how the Bard would use a Narrator to draw attention to what we were experiencing and so encourage us to analyse it. The Narrator, in Shakespeare's plays, as in The Boss of It All, could be the true boss, telling us what is really happening beneath the surface.) And the dramatic ending will have you clinging to your seat. Hold on to your sides cos if you laugh too much you might miss something.

Ever the creator of some new cinematic technique, von Trier has committed the movie's cinematography to a (published) mathematical formula and principle called 'Automavision'. This is designed to 'limit human interference' and free the work from the force of habit and aesthetics. As with Dogme95, no doubt half the film community will ask if he is serious while another sector will go off and studiously practice it. As an added fillip, Danish fans can play 'Lookey', to find hidden visual elements out of context in the movie and first winner gets to be an extra in the next film. Von Trier has also devised a new ascetic aesthetic to 'rediscover his original enthusiasm for film.' And he's tired of playing 'bad cop' in professional relationships while other people get to be 'good cop' and nice to everyone, yet this master of intellectual creation has taken the experience as inspiration for the film, "poking fun at artsy-fartsy culture."

They sometimes say that if God didn't exist you'd have to invent him. Sometimes you just need to know who you are dealing with. You need The Boss of it All. At least in this film Lars von Trier credits himself as Director. Not since The Five Obstructions has the question of authorship been so seriously questioned. Even the character of the actor, who wields enormous power, has to consult his 'character' on how things should proceed.

From such serious polemics as Dogville and Manderlay, the cowboy romp of Dear Wendy, the quasi philosophy of The Idiots, and the serious mainstream challenges of Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves, one of the most original creative forces in contemporary cinema has turned his technical genius to pure comedy. Gainsayers will still call him pretentious, but they may laugh their socks off before they find out who's telling the joke.

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48 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Everybody thinks they could make a good and fair boss... or do they?

9/10
Author: Asa_Nisi_Masa2 from Rome, Italy
16 January 2007

Last Sunday's cinema outing with my friends here in Rome yielded a very pleasant surprise - Von Trier's unique latest flick, surprisingly enough, a comedy. I've read some comments claiming that this was one of his weakest movies - I respectfully, but firmly disagree. In fact, I would argue that even as a comedy, and thus deprived of the devices that normally make drama seem more powerful, this packed a punch on a par with Dancer in the Dark or Dogville, if not more. If understated power, rather than human agony and melodrama layered on very thick is what you best respond to, you might like Direktøren for det hele more than any other Von Trier movie you've seen so far.

Right from the opening shot, we are made to look into the windows of a cold and desolate office building in some characterless and efficient modern suburb like hundreds of others. Meanwhile, a narrator reassures us that this movie is a comedy. As such, he says, we are allowed not to think - to let this just be brainless entertainment. Hearing a narrator in a Von Trier movie make such an introduction, you just know that what you're about to watch will be anything but mindless fun! In fact, on hearing this I shifted rather uncomfortably in my seat, wondering what the Master Misanthrope had in store for me this time.

The basic plot: When Ravn, an IT company owner decides to sell his business off to a moody and irritable Icelandic businessman, he hires an actor to pretend that he's the Boss of Bosses. The pally, "cuddly", bearded Ravn, vaguely reminiscent of Robin Williams, explains his decision by saying that when he'd founded the company, he had never felt strong and charismatic enough to take on the mantle of president. He always preferred to just blend in with the rest of the staff, while actually pulling all the puppet strings. He had always told his staff that the "real" big boss (obviously non-existent) resided in America and never came to Denmark. When Ravn eventually decides to sell the company, the fussy Icelandic businessman expects the "real" president to sign the contact. For this reason, Ravn is forced to hire Kristoffer, an out-of-work, egocentrical actor, among other things obsessed with the obscure playwright Gambini and convinced that Ibsen is a talentless hack.

Naturally, Kristoffer knows nothing about the company, about IT and Ravn simply asks him to "improvise". Cue some cringeworthy company meetings with Kristoffer talking absolute crap (with one irascible employee, the "country bumpkin", constantly lashing out at him with his fist!). Cue also some inevitable office politics, involving the company's employees reacting to their new-found, flesh-and-blood figure-head, on whom they hang all their hopes and frustrations.

If this sounds like a Danish version of the British TV series "The Office" (remade also in America), please think again - the movie goes well beyond milking the comic potential of a typical contemporary office environment. The wonder of this movie lies in the way in which it plays with ethical issues. I won't give anything more of the plot away, as this would entail spoiling its central twists and surprises. Among other things, this multi-layered, dark and cynical comedy, which had my friends and I chatting for a solid two hours after we left the cinema, is about responsibility and what it means to be truly ethical. Holding oneself accountable for one's actions - how do you deal with that when the insatiable need to feel loved and approved of takes over? The movie is also a wonderful illustration of the typical contemporary corporate environment, whereby the employee is subtly demeaned in being prevented from ever putting a face to those provoking their misery on the workplace. It poses questions on what leadership really means. It shows us how a human being will become blind to the needs of others when it comes to satisfying one's vanity and emotional fragility.

Naturally, as a Lars Von Trier movie this is not a movie that has much faith in humanity. However, unlike Dancer in the Dark, it does not gang up on the viewer with its misanthropy and dramatic bullying. Unlike Dogville, it doesn't present a world in which moral nihilism is the only reality. Unlike Breaking the Waves, it doesn't revel in victimising its lead character. It's far more subtle and multi-facetted in its arguments against human integrity, not to mention that it's laugh-out-loud funny (the whole cinema was in stitches), superbly acted and truly unpredictable. I also enjoyed the cinematography, strictly hand-held digital camera with a purposefully "rudimentary" editing. Highly recommended, on several different levels.

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25 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

A friend hires his actor friend to stand in the line of fire as the absentee boss of his company

9/10
Author: atassano from South Korea
18 October 2006

I think if Von Trier's name wasn't attached to the project the people commenting might me more willing to accept this brilliant comedy. If you watch this expecting Manderlay, Dancer in the Dark, or even The Idiots, you will be disappointed. One gets the feeling from the narration (done by Von Trier himself, or at least someone speaking directly for him) this was a one off for Von Trier;a film meant to cleanse his pallet before he sinks his teeth back into American Democracy. But by taking himself less seriously he's made one of the best films of his career. I saw this at the Pusan International Film Festival and it was one of the 2 best films I saw the entire week. A couple times I was close to tears.

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32 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

von Trier at his most Danish

8/10
Author: stensson from Stockholm, Sweden
26 March 2007

This will be a little hard to understand, for those who are not familiar with Scandinavian office culture and enterprise democracy. For those who are, it's funny.

The unemployed actor gets a job. He's supposed to act as executive, during some sensitive business with an Icelandic buyer. It doesn't develop like he has imagined, but in fact it doesn't develop like anyone has imagined.

There's lots of kicking here in every direction and not at least against cultural snobbism. It's von Trier back to the basics, but not that easy to grip for people outside a Scandinavian environment.

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

a play, not a movie, but so darn good at it!

7/10
Author: XeniaGuberman from St. Petrograd, Russia
7 May 2007

This movie is undoubtedly an ideological departure from the recent LVT endeavours. It has no tear-jerking aspirations, except as a matter of laughs. In a way, it is self-ridiculing, adding an extra layer of hilarious logical traps. It is a bit slow in the third quarter, but then picks up. Special noteworthy inventions: the Icelandic buyer (a riot!), his translator, mythical Gambini and the "Hanged Cat"! Acting, acting, acting is very witty and plastic. It makes the piece (with mostly indoors setting) less cinematic, more of a filmed play (which is undoubtedly the intention of the director). Good entertainment and fairly original.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

By all means, take it literally

6/10
Author: Polaris_DiB from United States
13 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film starts on an image of Lars von Trier and his camera reflected in a window. "This film is supposed to be escapist entertainment, and just that", he says. Well okay then. If we're going to play that way, I'll take his word for it. So long over-analysis into art film, let's sit back and enjoy the ride.

"The Boss of It All" is a comedy about an actor who is hired as a proxy for any potential ill-will towards the true boss of an IT company. Seems sneaky boss man can't handle being disliked, and so for all this time has been telling his employees that every unpopular and bad decision is being made by "the boss of it all", someone he has no need to ever appear until there's interest in selling the business. The actor, realizing the underhanded way the boss is mistreating all these nice people, has to work out a way to set things right while not breaking any of his agreements with the true boss. Hilarity ensues.

Is it funny? Actually, it is, and good thing too, else this movie would be nothing but pure head-ache. Von Trier uses this process called "Automavision" to leave the shooting and editing to a computerized process. I've heard some say it's a comment on "outsources." I say it's a bad idea. Von Trier said it himself: it's escapist entertainment. If that is so, then I'd like to not be distracted by the incongruous editing. And if that was just a sly joke, I'd still, at least, like to have some good images. It is a film after all.

As for the self-reflexive comedy, it works a lot more when it's in the story, not when it is narrated by von Trier. I think it's funny to have characters discuss, literally, what genre conceit or cliché they should use to send the narrative in the direction they prefer. The only time it gets heavy-handed is when one character alludes to Dogme film-making--von Trier's preferred style that is still, despite his own familiarity with it, a pretty underground movement that IT workers and even method actors might not be familiar with. However, nobody's going to see "The Boss of It All" without knowing who von Trier is, and nobody's going to know who von Trier is (for long) without knowing what Dogme film is, so I guess that's a moot point.

At any rate, I think this movie ends up proving an entirely different point--that no matter what the equipment used, a movie will remain interesting if it has a good story. Lucky for von Trier, he has one. So by all means, take his opening warning and his closing apology seriously, and don't read too much into it.

--PolarisDiB

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Danish Humor and Culture

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
30 January 2010

The Danish lawyer Ravn (Peter Gantzler) owns the high technology company IT that he founded with the money he borrowed from his six directors. However, he invented a fictitious and powerful president named "The Boss of It All" to cover the unpopular policies of the company with the employees. When he decides to sell up the company to the Icelandic entrepreneur Finnur (Fridrik Thor Fridriksson), the buyer demands to negotiate directly with the president of IT. Ravn hires the unemployed actor Kristoffer (Jen Albinus), who is a fan of the actor Antonio Gambini, to perform the role of president of IT under a contract of confidentiality. Along the days, Kristoffer gets close to and emotionally involved with the employees of IT. Sooner he finds that the lawyer of Finnur is his ex-wife that tells him that Ravn is tricking his colleague that will lose their jobs and rights. Kristoffer tries to persuade Ravn to confess his business to the co-workers until he finds that Finnur is also a fan of Gambini.

The witty "Direktøren for det Hele" is a surrealistic dark humor comedy of Lars von Trier with a funny story of greed and vanity. I am a big fan of this director and I liked this movie, but I lost many jokes since I am not familiarized with Danish humor and culture. The conclusion is very sarcastic and I believe not easy to be understood. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Grande Chefe" ("The Big Boss")

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17 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Modern Comedy

9/10
Author: knud_andreassen from Denmark
2 January 2007

Lars von Trier has done a modern comedy that gives (me) associations to the plays of the Norwegian-Danish comedy writer Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754). Even if it is a comedy and Lars von Trier himself in the start of the movie tells we can lean back and enjoy being entertained, the film has a message that - if you are open to it - will give you something to think about regarding moral and ethics. Like all good movies this has a surprisingly ending. "The Boss of it all" has divided the audience in Denmark in 2 groups – a group who absolutely dislikes the movie and a group which is rather enchanted with it. As you can understand I belong to the last group.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Superb, satirical enterprise comedy

9/10
Author: ArthurKaletzky from Cambridge
19 March 2008

What a wonderful surprise this film was! I never expected a pretty straightforward satire from von Trier and Dogme, but I certainly got it. The plot sounds well-used and obvious but the way it was transferred to a Scandinavian IT culture, the distanced approach to character writing, improvisation, and superb acting and direction made it a great comedy. On reflection, what was really hilarious was the massively over-inflated self-importance of each and every character. Ali G. and Borat could learn a few things from these Danes (and one very irate Icelander).

As the end credits voice-over said, "Apologies to those who expected more, and to those who expected less. The others got what they deserved". I was glad to be one of the others.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Lars von Trier: a gift to cinema!

10/10
Author: giantpanther from United States
15 August 2007

Finally a breath of fresh air, after being let down by several of the long awaited features of my favorite directors (such as INLAND EMPIRE and The Fountain, both of which were good but not adequate considering the directors) von Trier delivers.

After the heavy handed Manderlay and Dogville von Trier decided he needed to take a "dogme pill" to recharge his batteries and what we have is this fine gem. While this is a comedy it is a very different kind of comedy, it is a self aware comedy but even more than that it is a comedy that is also willing to take on more abstract concepts.

Just like the late Ingmar Bergman, von Trier has a real knack for comedy even though he hardly goes in that direction. The basic premise of the film is that an actor is hired on as a fictional boss, conjured up by the real boss who wanted someone to hide behind. What adds a fine twist to that is that most of the employees feel that they know the boss to some degree because they have received letters and emails from him throughout the companies history, leading to some very funny situations.

What I love about von Trier's films is that they do not ask permission, and they do not apologize for being what they are. Von Trier is a bold artist and is the only consistently brilliant filmmaker working today.

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