Andrea Molaioli / Italy/France / 2011 / 110 min
It’s easy to understand why so many playwrights, novelists and filmmakers have found inspiration in the latest financial crisis. The business world is so full of Shakespearean characters and plots, with schemes planned in the shadows, alliances formed and broken, and daggers ready to be plunged in backs ‘round every corner, that the stories practically write themselves.
Andrea Molaioli’s expertly told and blackly comic film is set between the early nineties and late noughties, a period of business history, where anything seemed possible – even for a producer of dairy products and snacks, to do what Napoleon and Hitler never could and take over Russia. The journey from ambition to corruption is a short one and so when the over-extended, under-capitalised upon expansion begins, so does the inevitable creative accounting and hyperbolic statements to the press and shareholders.
Molaioli’s sense of time and place is, quite literally, on the money. The clothes, the cars, the technology and the confident, almost cult-like business-speak of the boardroom driving forward their manifest destiny. Replace the dairy with derivatives and you’ve got RBS.
Toni Servillo, exceptional as Giulio Andreotti in Il Divo a few years ago, plays the terse, world weary, old school CFO – full of rage, deviousness and loyalty, the latter ultimately responsible for his downfall. This lonely workaholic together with Remo Girone‘s avuncular pater familias company chairman, both driven to transform the company into a mega-corporation, form the two pillars that will eventually give way, bringing the temple crashing down.
The only false note struck in this film is the relationship between Servillo and Sarah Felberbaum as Girone’s ambitious young niece. In the boardroom it works giftedly, giving a perfect picture of the misogyny and machismo of the corporate world, but when it gets to the bedroom it feels tacked on and bit like a fantasy fulfilment from the director.
There have been darker films on the subject of the crash and certainly ones that get further under its skin. But by looking at things not from the perspective of Tom Wolfe‘s Masters of The Universe, but rather at the ambitious small-time boardroom buccaneers who sailed the seas of high finance, you get a more human, indeed more humane take on our fascinating and disturbing recent past.
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