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Barbara Bel Geddes,
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The film "Komedie om geld" has a rather un-Dutch appearance, which is undoubtedly due to the director, the German Max Ophüls. It was made in 1936, a few years after the coup d'etat of Hitler in Germany. At that time many employees from the avant-garde German film industry had fled from their country, and in an effort to secure a living occasionally worked for the few Dutch film projects. In fact "Komedie om geld" has quite a few similarities with "The three penny opera". Both films make references to money and capital, although this aspect is especially clear in the "Komedie". Indeed the effects of the Great Depression were still omnipresent, and the film theme is the threatening failure of an investment bank. The theatrical part of the "Komedie" is visible in the appearance of a circus director, who at times interrupts the film in order to address the public with a song or a comment. This helps the viewer to remain at an emotional distance, just like some tricks of the nouvelle vague do. The message of the "Komedie" is somewhat obscure, but financial fraud definitely plays a major role. It were the times, when business had lost all credibility in the eyes of the common people. This makes the film of present interest, in view of the many bank directors, who in their lust to grab the maximum amount of bonuses ruin their firms. Actually the story is rather tragic. A bank clerk and money roundsman loses a large sum of capital from his money bag. Although embezzlement can not be proved, he is dishonourably discharged. His applications all fail, and in spite of his charming daughter he is close to making a suicide attempt. But then a miracle happens: the management of a bank offers him the position of director. The clerk is happy to agree. He doesn't know that his predecessor has disappeared together with the contents of the bank vault. Consequently the bank management searches for ways to hold up the appearance of credit-worthiness and solvency. Their job offer speculates on the fact that everybody in the branch is certain that the clerk still possesses his supposed loot. As a director the clerk tries to introduce a culture of integrity, and at the same time feels that he is not up to the job. The film does not reveal if he would have succeeded. For he accidentally recovers the lost sum of capital, and he immediately returns the sum to his former employer. Of course this makes things worse, because the insurance has already paid for the loss and damage. So his honesty is used against him, the court interprets the recovered money as the proof of the embezzlement, and the clerk is yet put into prison. But now the circus director intervenes: "Dear audience, we will not let this drama impose a burden on you". A witness is found in favor of the clerk, and he is released. Basically I would call this a German-like film, but it is a real gem. The play, the shots and entourage are all excellent. On the other hand, the story is rather ill-tempered. It is clearly a complaint against big business, and a portrayal of the little man being crushed by the system-innate faults. But the little man himself is only slightly better than his superiors: in his worst moments he starts drinking, he succumbs to temptations etc. So in spite of its qualities the film was not a commercial success. If you prefer social films with a perspective, see my other film reviews.
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