Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Heartbeat Detector (La Question Humaine) FRENCH

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Corporate Psychologist Troubled by Company’s Possible Nazi Past in
Interminable Social Satire

Simon Kessler (Mathieu Amalric) is the staff psychologist working in the Human Resources Department of the French subsidiary of SC Farb, a German petrochemical corporation. His job description involves employee selection with the aim of amassing an army of “highly competitive subalterns.”
However, when it appears that the company’s CEO, Mathias Just (Michael Lonsdale), has begun behaving erratically, the managing director (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) asks the shrink to psychoanalyze their boss. His delicate assignment is to determine whether the aging captain of industry still has the mental capacity to continue running the multi-national operation.
Since this is to be done surreptitiously, Simon resorts to an elaborate ruse insinuating himself so as not to arouse anyone’s suspicion. Eventually, after a very loooooong lead-in, he finds evidence linking Just to unspeakable crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II.
So unfolds the tortoise-paced Heartbeat Detector, a fatally-flawed film which, unfortunately, takes forever to get around to addressing those shocking revelations. Instead, director Nicolas Klotz first devotes over an hour to distracting intimations of office hanky-panky while substituting what looks like surrealistic improv and interpretive dance for plot development.
If the movie was trying to make any thought-provoking social statements bemoaning a corporate philosophy which has minions marching in lockstep or comparing modern business mores to the Holocaust, those allusions were uncovered in far too deliberate a fashion for this critic to appreciate. For by the time the message finally arrived, I had long since been turned off by its overindulgence in inscrutable asides.
A cinematic flatliner that was dead on arrival.

Fair (1 star)
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 141 minutes
Studio: New Yorker Films

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