Inflation explores the subject of money through photographs and with with stop motion animation techniques, adding faces of people impoverished and enriched by the unpredictability of finance.

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Inflation explores the subject of money through photographs and with with stop motion animation techniques, adding faces of people impoverished and enriched by the unpredictability of finance.

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Short | Documentary

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24 May 1928 (Germany)  »

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Worthless money
9 December 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

German avant-garde director Hans Richter is well-known for his unique brand of abstract film-making. Next to the craziness that was 'Ghosts Before Breakfast (1928),' this particular short seems comparatively ordinary by comparison. At least 'Inflation (1928)' has a basis in reality, so it doesn't ache your brain to try and work out what contention, if any, Richter is trying to communicate through his work. From 1921-1923, Germany suffered a significant period of hyperinflation, certainly one of the most studied cases in world economic history. In 1922, the highest denomination was 50,000 Mark. By 1923, the highest denomination was 100,000,000,000,000 Mark. Richter traces the rapid degradation of the US-German exchange rate, dramatically working towards the moment when it took 50 million Marks to buy a single US dollar. The notion of hyperinflation is one economic concept that boggles the mind. An inflation rate that reaches the millions? The mere thought seems absurd, even surreal. It's only appropriate that Richter would treat it as exactly that: a bizarre, surreal nightmare.

For 'Inflation,' Richter utilises his usual bag of tricks – quick editing, cross-fades, double-exposures, blurred photography and superimpositions. The film cuts frequently between piles of banknotes – lots and lots of money, now utterly worthless – as men beg weakly on the streets, and cigar-smoking fat-cats obliviously await their demise. Nervous shareholders bustle to sell their stock; worried faces survey their financial situation. A respectable-looking middle-class worker buys the newspaper, reads the latest inflation-related news, and removes his hat to plead for charity. Nobody can escape, and doom is inevitable. Like a frantic nightmarish curse, the inflation destroys all in its path, and the film's feverish pacing underlines the rapidity with which this economic plague arose and is growing. Richter's montage concludes with the demolition of a building, slow-motion images of wooden pylons tumbling into the dirt. Is this the sight of a nation being brought to its knees? Ironically, Richter was here being stunningly prescient: the Great Depression was just around the corner, and the rest of the world would fair no better than Germany.


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