“Cruelty Comes in More Forms than Bullets/ De Bon Matin”

By Robert K. Stephen on April 2, 2012

The brutality of bullets is evident in “De Bon Matin”, a Franco-Belgian production which had its English Canada language premiere on 27March2012 at the Ciné Franco International Film Festival in Toronto. The brutality of bullets jolts the viewer in the opening minutes of the film and then at the film’s conclusion a horrific bullet scene just about rips you off your chair and leaves you wondering….no leaves you thinking not momentarily but for days after what has just unfolded in front of you. Kind of beats “Avatar” or “The Titanic” in that regard. There is no doubt empathy for Paul the banker killer but there should be no sympathy.

What could have caused this late 50ish or so mild mannered French banker, Paul Werter, living in a beautiful suburb somewhere in the Rhone Valley to quietly leave the house after kissing his wife in the early morning and taking the bus into work, walking quietly down the hallway of his office, calmly unwrapping a 9 mil Astra 100 pistol and with serenity fire horrifically loud shots at his boss and then the young Parisian analyst trying to escape down the hall. The calm nature of the killings makes them even more brutal. Paul then walks to an office and sits down with his Astra pistol on the desk and we experience via a multitude of flashbacks the events leading up to the slayings and his reflections of when things started “to go wrong”.

bon_matin.jpgPaul is a banker who has won success within the bank initially with small business customers to the extent he is promoted to “corporate and municipal accounts”. He gives all his efforts to his customers as he respectfully states that these customers “put food on my plate”. The bank suddenly takes a turn for the worse with subprime investments and Paul’s new boss and the young analyst are brought in from Paris to turn things around. The staff quietly rebels sensing a cover-up of a bank about to go under. Senior management is more concerned about managing a nervous client base than addressing the real problems (poor management) facing the bank. Paul leads a quiet revolt. Paul’s performance review indicates a problem as his production is down by an exactly measured 17% over the previous year. Paul is shipped off to the bank hired psychiatrist in an attempt to see why he is “cracking”. The corporate psychiatrist prescribes medication which does not exactly jive with Paul’s consumption of “whisky”. Paul becomes sloppy, misses meetings and eventually is demoted and stripped of his “municipal accounts” all justified in a cruel “justifiably corporate” type of way. Poor performance reviews, demotions and corporate psychiatrist prescribed drugs eventually lead Paul to a physical and mental collapse. What cements Paul is his tenuous relationship with his wife and son. We are not quite sure if his wife has found someone to replace Paul.

We witness that speaking freely in a corporate environment means career death. We see ambitious young MBA’s undercutting the older client oriented managers. Profit rules absolutely. Rescuing a bank governed by poor management eclipses client service. Corruption rules over decency. Paul’s reports on the weaknesses of clients of the bank is used to justify terminations of his colleagues and creates yet more stress for Paul. He remarks one day you are a star and the next you are worthless. There are certain personal innuendos concerning the possibility his wife is having an affair and that Paul has had a certain gay relationship. However they are hanging as possible identifiers of the real Paul and never developed…sort of a nasty scabbiness to the film.

The murder scene is repeated at the conclusion of the movie and Paul comes to a horrific and jarring end that leaves the audience in a stunned state. The movie concludes fittingly in a boardroom with the Judas like psychiatrist that had asked Paul to trust him and sombre and shocked management colleagues all very reminiscent of da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper”. Schuman’s music kicks in and suddenly the movie concludes. The audience sits shocked and transfixed and the discussions start.

I can empathize with Paul’s miserable state. The anti-corporate greed backdrop is catchy and current if not a bit stereotypical and occupyish. The backstabbing and cruel corporate environment is evident but not polemic. The worst cruelty in a corporate environment is justified by rationality, shareholder value and the cruelest manipulatory tool of all…the performance review. Does this justify the savage murders by Paul? No! However I query if the concluding scene is Last Supperish as it places Paul as some sort of Jesus like role?

If you are looking for an answer for why Paul murdered, in a beautifully Euro tradition you aren’t going to be handed that reason on a platter. You will have to come to that conclusion on your own. Paul says he is just like everyone else but considering his murderous rampage we can’t be so easily duped. We all go through suffering in our lives in our personal relationships, our work environment but what causes Paul to crack and become a killer? Take a close look at his second spit in the sink at the beginning of the movie and you may just have the answer. Otherwise I am drawing a blank.


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