Geof Oppenheimer: Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures: Block Museum - Northwestern University
Skip to main content

Geof Oppenheimer: Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures

Geof Oppenheimer: Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu October 15, 2015 - Fri October 30, 2015


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


In conjunction with the Block Museum’s fall exhibition Geof Oppenheimer: Big Boss and the Ecstasy of Pressures, Chicago-based artist Geof Oppenheimer has programmed a series of four films. Each grapples with the slickness of capitalism: through paranoia and suspense (The Conversation), black comedy (The Boss of It All), social realism (La Promesse), and the psychology of mass culture (The Dark Knight). The Boss of It All satirizes our love-hate relationship with authority—something the characters crave and rail against in the same breath. The Conversation directs its unflinching gaze at the ambiguity of human communication in a world where life and death decisions must be made. In La Promesse, a fifteen-year-old’s emerging sense of morality comes up against the need for economic stability. In The Dark Knight, the Joker overturns the rules of law & order and organized crime, reveling in a destructive anarchy that is as essential as the aspects of modernity that shaped Bruce Wayne: industrialization, Freudian fears, and the urban metropolis. Together these films paint a picture of a world where order can only exist within a greater and more dangerous disorder—a world prone to misunderstanding, exploitation, destruction, misanthropy, and disturbing beauty. Join Oppenheimer and London-based film curator Will Schmenner in a discussion of the series at 7pm, followed by a screening of the art house satire The Boss of It All at 8pm on October 15.


The Boss of it All

Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:00 PM FREE
(Lars von Trier, 2006, Denmark/Sweden/France/Italy/Germany/Iceland, 35mm, 99 min.)

IT company director Ravn (Peter Gantzler) has gone to great lengths to avoid the ecstasy of pressure. He created a fictional and absentee director named Svend to deliver bad news to his employees over email. Now Ravn wants to sell, but the potential buyer will only negotiate with Svend. Ravn hires an actor, Kristoffer (Jens Albinus), to play Svend, which sets this dark Brechtian comedy into motion. Von Trier unleashes technology’s strange ability to distance and intensify emotions. Copy machines elicit screams, jargon flies, and Ravn’s company flounders through its gloriously dysfunctional relationship to authority. All the while, von Trier (as narrator) pops in and out of the film, asserting that he’s shot the project with “Automavision,” a set of computer-operated cameras that limit human influence and randomly frame the action seen on screen.

The screening will start at approximately 8pm and will be preceded by a conversation with Geof Oppenheimer & guest film curator Will Schmenner.


The Conversation

Thursday, October 22, 2015 7:00 PM
(Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, US, 35mm, 113 min.)

“He’d kill us if he got the chance.” That phrase repeats again and again. Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a surveillance expert, recorded this snippet of a couple's conversation in crowded Union Square, San Francisco. Haunted by his conscience and fearful of what is to come, Caul obsessively attempts to uncover its meaning. Martin Stett (Harrison Ford) and his employer, known simply as The Director (Robert Duvall), hound Caul for the recording. He resists, refusing to be a mere cog in this doomed chain of cause and effect. The Conversation raises questions about private intentions and unanticipated consequences in a world of eroding privacy and increasing randomness. Walter Murch’s masterful editing and sound design have proven profoundly influential. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1974.

Presented in an archival IB Techincolor 35mm print!


La Promesse

Friday, October 23, 2015 7:00 PM
(Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 1996, Belgium, 35mm, 94 min.)

Igor (Jeremie Renier), a 15-year-old apprentice auto mechanic, augments his income with casual crimes. He lives with his father (Olivier Gourmet) on the outskirts of Liège, helping him rent apartments to undocumented workers while nonchalantly exploiting their fears. When a surprise visit from a building inspector sends African immigrant Amidou (Rasmane Ouedraogo) tumbling from a scaffold, Igor makes an unexpected promise—going against his, and his father’s, economic interests. After focusing on documentaries for twenty years, the Dardenne brothers directed this breakthrough feature. With La Promesse, their attention to detail and compassion for their characters catapulted them to the forefront of narrative “social realism.”


The Dark Knight

Friday, October 30, 2015 7:00 PM
(Christopher Nolan, 2008, US/UK, 35mm, 152 min.)

In 2008, The Dark Knight felt like an apology for torture and vigilante justice—or any justice outside of the legal realm. Seven years later, it’s the Joker’s words that linger: the idea that, as he says, “there’s no going back, you’ve changed things forever” and that “you have nothing to do with all your strength.” The Joker (Heath Ledger) infused this blockbuster with the notion that extralegal force escalates violence and breeds disorder. Like the plot, the immediate experience of the film walks a thin line between the satisfaction of closure and resolution, and the worrisome, if undeniable, pleasure of watching the world burn.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at