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I have always been struck by the sentence in F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY (1925) used to describe Tom and Daisy Buchanan as "destructive" in the sense that they have a lot of money, but that renders then totally indifferent to human suffering, especially that of the eponymous hero.
Through the ingenious of three interlinked stories, each depicting the same incident, Paolo Virzi's film achieved a similar effect. A man is knocked off his bicycle on Christmas Eve by someone driving an SUV; the action leading up to and including that incident over the previous six months is narrated from Dino Ossola's (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) perspective, from that of his daughter Serena (Matilde Gioli) and that of their rich acquaintance's wife Carla (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). The story is relatively straightforward, involving Carla's husband Giovanni (Fabrizio Gifuni), her son Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli), and a young man wrongfully accused of drug possession who has received psychiatric counseling (Gigio Alberti).
What we learn from the narrative is how Giovanni lives an affluent existence that renders him totally insensible to the sufferings of others. He believes that money can buy anything, even justice. We see him mostly in interior sequences, in a rich-looking house surrounded by guests. Carla believes there is more to life than simply money, but apparently cannot countermand her husband's will. Money produces servility. Massimiliano has the same indifference to others as his father; so long as he has the chance to sleep in his own bed and enjoy driving his new "beast" - the SUV involved in the accident - then his existence is fulfilled.
Morally speaking. Dino's existence is not much better, as he invests 700,000 in one of Giovanni's schemes and loses virtually nine- tenths of his capital. In revenge he tries to blackmail Carla for 900,000 plus a kiss; the fact that this scene takes place in a theater underlines the theme of the film, that these people are merely performing in life, rather than trying to understand its vicissitudes.
In plot-terms, HUMAN CAPITAL can be approached as a murder-mystery, as we are led down various blind alleys until we discover who actually killed the cyclist. In thematic terms, however, the film is far more preoccupied with showing the depths to which people can sink in their attempts to avoid confronting the truth about their existences and live instead in their financial bubbles, both mental as well as tangible.
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