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Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00

"The Human Resources Manager" Trades in Dark Humor

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Written by Diane Carson
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Sometimes it's impossible to figure the blind-side hits coming our way. That could be the motto for The Human Resources Manager, both the film and the title character, the Human Resources Manager, who remains otherwise nameless, known only by his business title.

Based on the novel "A Woman in Jerusalem" by A.B. Yehoshua, adapted by Noah Stollman, noted Israeli director Eran Riklis unceremoniously presents the unexpected twists and turns of the H.R. manager's troubles. He works at a family bakery in Jerusalem, 2002, where the business' manager makes it H.R.'s responsibility to escort a dead employee, Yulia, to her home village in Romania, a country not explicitly named but obvious.

On a bus, Christian immigrant Yulia died when a bomb blew up in a Palestinian terrorist act. The strange thing is H.R. has no idea who Yulia was, why she wasn't at work for days, why no one noticed, and why her corpse has lain unclaimed in the morgue. At any rate, H.R. is forced to accept responsibility to forestall very negative publicity promised by a journalist called only the Weasel, who pries and pursues the scandal. But the attempt to bury this woman becomes increasingly, amusingly absurdist.

Richly suggestive politics remain an unexplored backdrop as the bizarre story takes and holds center stage. Riklis relies on the viewer to independently pursue the provocative, metaphorical implications. Among other topics, corruption, bureaucracy, and immigrant labor figure in the droll tale. So too do considerations of social responsibility, media coverage, state policies, and rituals. The anonymity of city life opposes communal knowledge in small towns. And indifference toward others contrasts with humane concern. All of this is dramatized, none of it preached about.

A bit slow in several scenes midway through the narrative, The Human Resources Manager doesn't glide along from beginning to end. But the final act rewards and surprises in satisfying ways. The Human Resources Manager won five Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In Hebrew and Romanian with English subtitles and with some English. At a Landmark Theatre.

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