Based on true events, a high-up executive is sent to her former workplace to investigate the recent suicides of three employees, only to discover the internal corruption of the company, as well as her own moral standing, within the process.
After three suicides within five months in one particular branch of a multinational company, hard-ball company executive, Sofía Cuevas, is sent to investigate and prepare a report on the deaths for those higher up in the business. Cuevas, a firm supporter of the company with a tough-as-nails attitude, begins to delve into the lives of not only the dead employees, but those still currently working within the building. As the investigation progresses, a truly horrible image of the working environment begins to form for Cuevas where staff face an intense work pace, horrific pressure from their boss, the norm of 18 hour work days, volatile workplace bullying, and even spying and blackmail. Cuevas is left to decide what the report shall contain as her loyalty to the company is pitted against her newly developed morals.
Writer/Director, David Cánovas, chose this as the theme of his debut feature film as he was inspired by the current culture within large corporations combined with the 2009 true-life tragedy of 20 employees committing suicide at France Télécom. This concept has not ever really been touched on, and Cánovas has interpreted it in a realistic format that leaves the audience shocked, saddened and frustrated at how low a company can sink in the pursuit of profit.
Cánovas has cleverly chosen to keep the setting for most of the film in the company building with it’s neutral-coloured, bare-walled offices filled with men and women dressed in black suits and white shirts and not a smile to be seen. The audience themselves have been placed in the maze of mundane offices creating an enclosed and almost strangled feeling which is a realistic recreation of what the staff experience as their lives have become their work within the walls of this building.
Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth) brings depth to lead character Cuevas, which is crucial as the film rotates around her awakening to the reality of the staff’s horrific situation. Verdú makes clear the lead character’s hard-ball, tough-as-nails nature as a boss in the beginning as we see her terrifyingly scolding a staff member in the opening scenes. As Cuevas starts interviewing staff members though, there is a visible change in her personality and the audience can see that what she is being told is actually breaking through her tough walls to create true feelings of empathy and sadness.
The Tip of the Iceberg is not only an investigative thriller, but also highlights the serious impact of the workplace on an individual’s mental health. It is a successfully interesting take on the people versus big corporations and is well worth a watch at this year’s Spanish Film Festival.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Rating out of 10: 7