Cruel managerial role-play in Nothing Personal
"C’est mal, ô trahison, d’inspirer la folie en gardant la raison" (“It’s bad, Oh treachery, to inspire madness whilst remaining rational”): when a company manager sings this 19th-century song to his executives gathered together for a training evening in the form of a role-playing game, strangeness is the order of the day. With this intriguing, subtle and caustic opening tone, Mathias Gokalp’s Nothing Personal [+see also:
interview: Mathias Gokalp, director of…
film profile] screened out of competition on Thursday evening in the 48th Critics’ Week at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
Headed by an impeccable cast including Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Denis Podalydès, Mélanie Doutey, Pascal Greggory, Zabou Breitman and Belgium’s Bouli Lanners, this debut feature is held together by a formidable and rigorously-constructed screenplay (the script was co-written by the director and Nadine Lamari).
Divided into three parts ("The new one", "Married life" and "All together"), the film centres on the to-ings and fro-ings of eight characters: an incognito actor who converses with the executives judged on their abilities to "become more effective leaders", a boss about to sell his company who is secretly preparing a redundancy plan, a good-willed trade unionist who is overwhelmed by events, a woman manager who is anxious about failing the tests and supported by her lawyer husband, a company organiser in a difficult position due to her mechanic husband’s drunkenness, and a member of the cleaning staff who takes advantage of the confusion by disguising himself as a corporate executive.
Through tête-à-tête conversations that reveal secrets about the company’s future and the fragility of individuals, Nothing Personal weaves a web of comedy and sociological criticism of modern business. From caricatured managerial-speak, to career insecurity and prevailing cynicism (-"I know how to defend my territory" - "And in the event of a crisis?" - "I bite!" - "And what about the others?" - "What others? "), the film transforms its protagonists into pawns on a chess board.
But it also incorporates a good dose of delightful humour arising from the misunderstandings created by the role-play and conveys a certain fondness for the characters’ failings (tactlessness, doubt, disloyalty, lies…).
Filmed at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Chartres, this enclosed drama repeats certain scenes, which are slightly different each time or offer viewers a wider understanding of the film as a whole. This rather virtuoso combination lightly touches on numerous themes which demonstrate the plot-writing skill of this 35-year-old director, competing for the Cannes Camera d’Or.
(Translated from French)
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