"Corporate" by Nicolas Silhol (FR)
KVIFF 2017 - Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Official Selection (Competition)
Name: Miha Veingerl
Carved stone agendas and prognoses. Team building workshops, motivational slogans and worn-out phrases. Best practice groups and ad hoc problem-solving committees. Large offices with cubicles and all-in contracts. Detached, narrow-minded managers and a militaristic organizational structure.
Such artificial world is the focus of Nicolas Silhol's feature film debut Corporate, premiered internationally in the competition of this year's KVIFF. The story develops around Emilie (Céline Sallette), the Human Resources Manager of a large multinational corporation. She lives for her job, follows instructions from her superiors mechanically, and keeps all the apparently relevant numbers in her head. She neglects her family at the same time, isn't willing to understand the psychology of her colleagues, and cannot show empathy.
Her corporately uniform looks and behaviour remind us of another recent cinematic female manager, the protagonist of Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016). Both women undergo a development due to an unexpected circumstance. In Emilie’s case, it´s the coping with the suicide of a colleague, whom the company previously tried to convince to quit his job. Deciding that firing him would be too easy, they applied newly developed internal psychological games, masked as corporate agenda.
The tragic event triggers a wave of responses. The management restricts itself to actions that are externally demanded to keep up the public image of the company. Employees get stimulated to finally reveal their workplace frustrations,or act disloyally. Emilie tries to reevaluate the morality of her boss´ (Lambert Wilson) management methods and her part in implementation of those methods. Albeit it seems that the fervour for doing so increases, when the criminal charges brought on her by the labour regulations inspectorate become more possible. In the end, corporate and personal sacrifices will be necessary – the only question is who will get the short end of the stick.
Corporate plays a part in demystifying the Western dream that went global, together with some other recent works like the German documentary duet from 2012, Konstantin Faigle´s Keep Up The Good Work and Carmen Losmann´s WorkHard–Play Hard. In a time of rapid technological development we might really have reached the point to reconsider working conditions, reward mechanisms and the overall happiness of employees, since companies stand and fall with them. As long as this concurs with the employees’own wishes.
Silhol´s film is a piece well researched, largely through family experiences, since the director is the son of an HR consultant and management professor. Dramaturgically he stays inside his frames and delivers predominantly expected plot twists. The qualities of the film lay elsewhere, nevertheless. Its creative trademarks are the directorial guidance of the actors and their individual performances, which are on point from the leading down to the several small supporting roles. While the development of the emotional states of the protagonist is conveyed by repetitions of her behaviour and occasional nervous breakdowns, reactions of people around here are recorded within medium to close shots, where the gaze between them plays a crucial role especially.
The result is a portrait of a company, representative of the modern neoliberal capitalistic chimaera that revitalises itself with a delusion of grandeur and incorporates illusions into the general public sphere. A film that is socio-politically relevantabove all, a film for our times.
C. Photo Credit: Corporate (2016)