Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Marcelo Piñeyro's 2005 film The Method (El método) is an excellent filmed play about the realities of the modern corporate world. The competition between seven aspirants for a desirable position is less about specific human resources practices than the changing face of power and authority in our lives. Author Jordi Galcerán Ferrer's disturbing play takes care to note that most of the film's malice is generated by the job-seekers, not the unseen corporate bosses. The ruthless and unethical behavior is simple chemistry: human nature and competition. Screenwriter Mateo Gil is internationally known for his The Sea Inside and Abre los ojos.
The Dekia Corporation of Madrid convenes a group of seven applicants to compete for a single high-paying job. Carlos and Nieves (Eduardo Noriega & Najwa Nimri) are surprised to see each other, as they were casual lovers several years before. Left alone together, and with few clues as to how the competition works, the candidates reveal their inner natures. Fernando (Eduard Fernández) is an aggressive bully. Enrique (Ernesto Alterio) seeks favor by being agreeable. Ana (Adriana Ozores) maintains a cool professional distance. Julio (Carmelo Gómez) is defensive, and Ricardo (Pablo Echarri) somewhat uncooperative. The only Dekia person involved is hostess Montse (Natalia Verbeke), and she seems to be playing with them. Various games are used to eliminate one applicant after another.
The Method is a fascinating puzzle film and an intense character drama along the lines of Twelve Angry Men. In this case we're given seven upscale applicants, all of whom begin on supposedly equal terms. They're shown to a meeting room and told that the unexplained selection process will be "The Grönholm Method." Almost as in a reality show, the group is asked periodically to vote to eliminate one of their number. Adding to the tension, they are told right up top that one of them isn't an applicant at all, but a topo ("mole"), a company plant.
A vicious dynamic immediately takes shape. The seven are instructed to act as a group with a common cause while simultaneously functioning as competing individuals. When it comes time to eliminate a member, everyone rationalizes their choice but none admits that they simply want to reduce the number of competitors as quickly as possible. The applicants fret over the lack of information, question what they've been told and propose theories of hidden Dekia strategies. Perhaps there is no mole at all, and it's just a trick. Perhaps they're all being videotaped. Computer screens offer information that puts one of the contestants on the defensive, and sets him up for the kill. All are aware that they're being manipulated.
Being dynamic corporate competitors, the players need little encouragement to turn on one another. They are soon probing for weaknesses while trying to hide their own. Each quickly reverts to type. A conniver snipes at one of the women, disparaging her skills. The bully tries to make it look as though he has a natural ability to control the situation. The handsome Carlos finds a benign 'procedural' reason to join the wolf pack and vote against a competitor. The 'civilized' process also turns ugly. In a hypothetical game about surviving in a bomb shelter, the younger woman Nieves uses her youth to break down the confidence of the over-40 Ana. The bully Fernando uses physical means to rattle Carlos, and tries to intimidate Nieves with an indecent proposal.
The Method is almost frightening in its simplicity. At one point the applicants play ball, reducing their sophisticated games of one-ups-manship to a schoolyard level of hostility. One applicant informs on another's misrepresentation on the job application, a betrayal that boomerangs between them until we can no longer tell which will be eliminated.
All the while, the 'players' are aware that a massive demonstration against Globalization is unfolding in the streets below. While ordinary people protest the tyranny of corporations, our seven candidates put their reputations and futures on the line to fight for a favored slot in the system. Even as we root for the candidates we like, we're given to understand that something is very wrong with the whole setup. Without ever saying as much, The Method is itself a protest against the Brave New Corporate World that controls most aspects of our lives.
The Method disturbs because its players are neither pod people nor moral degenerates. The compromises we make to 'get along' in the world differ only by degree. It takes only a few short remarks to make the applicants place company loyalty above responsible action and even the health of the public. The mechanism in play is not some 'evil' agenda, but simple human nature.
The expertly written and directed The Method quickly draws us into the drama at hand. Marcelo Piñeyro's direction focuses our attention while maintaining a neutral stance on the attitudes and values presented. We turn against the weakling Enrique, and wonder why the principled Julio has such low self-esteem. We also ponder the kinds of deceit being used, often by the most charismatic players. Some of the company's opening statements are revealed as true and others turn out to be lies; the unseen corporation hovers behind video monitors like a post-modern Mabuse using his 1,000 Eyes. In the end, even the dreams of lovers are corrupted by the all-important need to succeed. Selling one's soul isn't a dramatic process, but something that happens constantly in our daily lives.
Palm Pictures' DVD of the intriguing The Method is presented in a beautiful widescreen-enhanced transfer. The Spanish audio track is in 5.1 and removable English subtitles are included. A behind the scenes featurette and a trailer are also on board.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Method rates:
Supplements: Featurette, trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 29, 2007
Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson
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