After waiting a few months I was finally able to watch Fantozzi. A 1975 Italian film about an employee with a demeaning and alienating job, at a fictional company called ItalPetrolCemenThermoTextiFarmSiderChemical. It’s a slapstick comedy so he gets beaten around a lot in a series of funny gags, and underneath it there’s a clever satire of white-collar company culture. It’s like the Italian version of Office Space, and the story is made up of several long sketches.
The best bit about this film is the final scene. After embarassing his boss, Fantozzi is moved to an dingy basement office with a with a man called Folagra. His new co-worker introduces him to Marxism, and after months of studying, he arrives at the company one morning with a brick in his hand. He throws the brick, which shatters a window. Security guards apprehend him, and take him to the top floor of the building to see the ‘Galactic Director’.
Fantozzi is misled, he thought the Galactic Director was a greedy tyrant, but on seeing his office, the walls are bare, it is not a den of opulence and wealth. The Director is simply an efficient manager, he even claims to care for the welfare of his workers.
And then, right at the end, the Director reveals that his chair is in fact made from the skin of an accountant. The narrative dissonance is glaring, the Director is so compassionate, he wants the same things as Fantozzi, and yet, he cannot escape the reality of class power. He is comfortable, sitting on a chair made from the skin of the workers.
The scene betrays the period in which the film was made (and the book on which it’s based). It was a time when the Italian Communist Party was at the height of its influence, but it moderated its programme in order to enter into a ‘historic compromise’ with the Christian Democrats. So the idea of reintroducing the question of class was very relevant.