Published Sep 09, 2010Eran Riklis's last film, Lemon Tree, featured a Palestinian woman fighting to reclaim her lemon orchard — her main source of income — from a territory dispute after an Israeli politician moves in next door and declares the land unsafe for Palestine trespass, for fear of bombings and shooters.
While nicely filmed and occasionally touching, it wasn't a subtle movie in implication or allegory, which is part of what makes The Human Resources Manager such a pleasant surprise. Undeniably, this Israeli-Palestine conflict is at the core of the film, peeking around the periphery for the duration, but the surface narrative works quite well on its own.
The film starts out with an HR Manager (Mark Ivanir) learning of a foreign employee, Yulia (the only character named in the film), dying in a suicide bombing at a café. Two weeks later, without notice of absence or a workplace acknowledgement of her disappearance, a journalist (Guri Alfi) seeks to crucify him and his bakery for inhumane acts.
Jokes are made at the morgue about which suicide-bombing victim the HR Manager is looking for, giving a sense of apathy to such a ubiquitous event, exacerbating the strange sense of internal Israeli blame. No one acknowledges the bomber, or their motivations, instead focusing on vilifying the victim's employer for not noticing her absence. It's dark terrain for a comedy, but Riklis makes it work with a light-hearted, occasionally cartoonish approach to the road trip that propels the majority of the film.
Said trip is initially a PR act on the part of the bakery, sending the titular manager through Eastern Europe (I'm guessing Romania, from the police cars that read, "Politia") to return Yulia's body to her hometown, but becomes an act of humanity once the victim is perceived as more than a problem to be dealt with.
Light absurdity and a series of bizarre characters and events make this quest greater than its intended lesson, broadening the audience beyond the art house to those seeking an off-centre, black comedy. (2-Team)