HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER, THE
Following a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, a young female migrant worker is found dead, the only ID being a paycheck from a bakery. The HR manager (Mark Ivanir) of Israel's largest industrial bakery, tries to save the reputation of the business and prevent the publication of a defamatory article in a local tabloid. But it's complicated .... and involves being out of town - in Romania - when his ex-wife (Reymond Amsalem) and daughter (Roni Koren) are expecting him to attend a school outing with her.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
From modest beginnings, Eran Riklis wrangles a touching and ultimately satisfying film out of the source novel, with humour and insight in equal measure. The Human Resources Manager is both the film's title and an appropriate label for the central character - unnamed as are all the characters, except the dead woman, Yulia - whose job at a large Tel Aviv bakery is a modest metaphor for how he handles unexpected events. It's how he handles his own humanity, really, that is explored in the screenplay.
Although the story is relatively simple, it is studded with complex themes and unexpected elements which make it rich and layered. This begins at the very start of the story, when a corpse is finally identified by a paycheck, which leads police to the bakery. But she hasn't been at work for weeks .... And why she has the paycheck is just one of the minor plot points that deepens the tragedy of how she died.
Riklis handles the material with a light touch, though, and while there are dark moments, there is always human nature's escape valve at the ready. The young woman who sets off the story when she is killed by a suicide bomber in the city sends the Human Resources Manager on a journey, accompanied by the muckracking journalist whose story makes him and his employer look callous and cruel, as well as a couple of others who join the search for Yulia's final resting place.
Mark Ivanir is terrific as the central character, assaulted by a merciless fate intent on making his life miserable, whose inner decency gives the film its heart and the audience its hero. Noah Silver is impressive as the sullen 14 year old runaway son of the dead woman, rejecting his father (Bogdan E. Stanoevitch) in a general revolt against the world. Father and son both make an emotional journey as well as a physical one. All the support roles, to the smallest cameos, are beautifully cast and performed, enriching the film's veracity.
There are some wryly amusing scenes along the road trip from Israel through Romania but I won't go into any details - best discover these in the film. And I do urge you to do so.
Given the subject matter and the setting, it's a surprisingly uplifting film, without ever turning away from the harsh realities of its elements. It was Riklis who made The Lemon Tree, another film which managed that so well.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
With its bitter sweet centre, this unusual road movie combines the incongruous, the bizarre and the unexpected. It takes a while to get going but by the time we are driving in a beat up van in freezing conditions in Romania, coffin strapped on the roof, an unlicenced driver at the wheel, an angry teenager muttering profanities, an uninvited photo journalist snapping candid shots and a Human Resources Manager who does not know any of them, the film has hit its stride.
Ironically, the human resources manager from Jerusalem's largest bakery is not good with people. On a personal level, he is divorced and struggling to maintain a relationship with his daughter, while professionally, he shows little communication skills with the staff or his boss. He appears disinterested in everyone. When he inadvertently gets caught up in a political and moral dilemma concerning a member of staff tragically killed in a suicide bombing, the responsibility of white-washing the company's involvement is placed squarely on his reluctant shoulders.
Bad publicity is never good, so doing what is considered to be the right thing and transport the woman's body into the care of her next of kin, is what's required of him. He may not start out the journey doing things for the right reason, but by the journey's end, much has changed.
It's the way things unfold that makes this film interesting, rewarding and at times hilarious. Like the scene in which Mark Ivanir's Human Resources Manager jumps out of his skin at the Jerusalem morgue, as a napping attendant jumps unexpectedly to his feet in the tomb-like silence. Apart from the deceased woman (who we never meet), none of the characters have names. They are known from the functions they perform: Noah Silver as The Boy, Julian Negulesco as The Vice Consul, Papil Panduru as The Driver, Bogdan E. Stanoevitch as The Ex-Husband, Irina Petrescu as The Grandmother and Reymond Amsalem as The Divorcee, formerly married to the Human Resources Manager. Ivanir leads a terrific cast whose gaggle of characters are as cacophonous as the gaggle of geese that form a guard of honour along the side of the road in the remote countryside.
It is impossible for anyone watching the first few minutes of the film to imagine where it could lead and Noah Stollman's script (based on a novel by Abraham B. Jehoshua) in the hands of director Eran Riklis entices us on the journey every step of the way. It's funny when you least expect it and equally moving at times when you are not prepared. This is an uplifting gem of a film that reminds us that fundamentally man has the potential to do good, even when he hasn't planned it.
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ERAN RIKLIS INTERVIEW
HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER, THE (M)
CAST: Mark Ivanir, Gila Almagor, Guri Alfi, Rozina Kambus, Noah Silver, Bogdan E. Stanoevitch, Julian Negulesco, Irina Petrescu
PRODUCER: Tudor Giurgiu, Tania Kleinhendler, Haim Meckleberg, Elie Meriovitz
DIRECTOR: Eran Riklis
SCRIPT: Noah Stollman (novel by Abraham B. Jehoshua)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rainer Klausmann
EDITOR: Tova Asher
MUSIC: Cyril Morin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yoel Herzberg
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 5, 2011