The burden of the body – The Human Resources Manager review

The Human Resources Manager – Starring Mark Ivanir, Noah Silver and Guri Alfi. Directed by Eran Riklis. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

The Human Resources Manager plays the Perth International Arts Festival from April 4 to April 17. Click here for more details.

The burial process of the ancient Egyptians was unimaginably finicky. They believed keeping a body preserved – brains, lungs and guts included – was essential in helping the dead enter the ‘next world’. They even went to the trouble of burying the newly-mummified with objects or valuables they thought might come in handy later on (including a surprisingly large number of combs, implying that the Egyptians suspected a Greaser resurgence in the afterlife).

Although we’d like to think we’ve all gotten smarter, less-superstitious and not so gross over the past few centuries, we’re all still struck by that existential dilemma regarding our final resting place. After we die, where should our bodies spend the rest of eternity, and does it even matter? Eran Riklis‘  Israeli parable The Human Resources Manager deals with these questions in a darkly-comic – yet still totally affecting – manner.

Mark Ivanir stars as the eponymous HR manager for a big time bakery in the heart of Jerusalem. He comes under fire from the local tabloids when one of his employees, a woman named Yulia, is killed in a terrorist attack, and he unwittingly continues to send the late factory worker her pay check. With no family in Israel to identify and bury her, the HR manager attempts some PR-inspired penance by pledging to bring Yulia home to Romania. He’s joined on his travels by a number of colourful characters, eventually including her estranged son (Noah Silver) and the tabloid journalist out to sully his name (Guri Alfi).

Only one character is afforded a name here, and that is Yulia herself, a dead woman who was troubled in life, and whose motivations, feelings and desires are never fully understood; merely interpreted through the prism of people undergoing their own identity crisis. Ivanir is excellent as the unnamed HR manager, both lost in and drawn to Jerusalem. He belongs to a people who have in them an immovable desire to find one’s place in the world – whether that be via the imaginary lines on a map, a name, or even a grave. Are these things really important? Is it essential to have your own country? Do you require a name to live your life fully? Will being buried in an appropriate place offer you any respite in the ‘next world’ (be it heaven, hell or infinite darkness)? Maybe. The Human Resources Manager is a film that treats these questions with respect. Riklis and writers Abraham B. Jehoshua and Noah Stollman (adapting Jehoshua’s book A Woman in Jerusalem) offer up no solution, but their film is powerful enough to inspire even the most sceptical, logical thinker to consider these so-called ancient conflicts. After all, if we don’t have a place, a name, or even a body, what do we have?


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

The Human Resources Manager plays the Perth International Arts Festival from April 4 to April 17. Click here for more details.

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