|Index||2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Since another user (Thomas) has already written a longer review that I
mostly agree with l will keep mine focused on some details:
- The documentary has some rough cuts between topics because the questions are seldom audible. Maybe it would have been useful to add graphics in written or formulate the questions clearly; it is especially annoying because a few questions can be barely heard off-camera. This should be an either-or.
- Watching the film without any economics or basic banking/trading knowledge could be hard at times. For example, there are formulas about swap products or the sums of bad loans issued/outstanding by large German banks (and their bad bank successors) written on the windows during the interview. Similarly, a number of open legal cases against Swiss banking giant UBS are cited by the interviewee (he is reading out of one of the latest UBS reports). Without further explanation, these topics seem cut together and could confuse the average viewer (same for oil bonds discussed by the interviewee or a Deutsche Bank ad for retail investors discussing long and short derivative products on the platinum price). Adding buzzwords without explanations or at least introductory statements make the interviewee gain an aura of superiority that is not warranted.
- The interviewed person sometimes comes across as biased against hedge funds versus established (big) banks, for example when discussing Greek bonds in distress. He focuses on the mess (hedge funds taking advantage of the fact that the Euro is supposed to be saved by politicians, acting as vultures) after it was said and done, not on the mechanisms and people who created the mess in the first place. There's a reason why hedge funds "attack" weak countries, they had large deficits and/or cooked their books to enter the Eurozone. It should be noted (at least in my opinion) that the latest crisis was largely caused by big banks and insurance companies with investment banking arms/units acting as hedge funds - the difference being that they were granted a public bailout while hedge funds acted on their own (no taxpayer bailout) this time.
The causes and roots of the latest financial crisis outside the realm of each bank (artificially low interest rates and the general role of central banks, subsidized housing promises in many countries by politicians, the removal of Glass-Steagall act in the United States and other de-regulation etc.) are only touched upon briefly when the rise of globalized, more deregulated banking system is discussed in passing. In contrast, the problem of financial "innovations" sold to investors with mediocre knowledge of said products is well discussed with an example. This makes the discussion of the crisis somewhat anecdotal, only one problem area was discussed.
- Confronting the interviewee with another person, say a person from critical groups or NGOs such as Attac or Occupy! or even other investment bankers disagreeing in an open discourse could have helped the movie in my opinion. Without such interruptions, the former banker can present his theories and recollections, there are no dissenting voices - only brief TV adverts or news clips are mixed in, 95% of the movie time focuses on the interviewee answering questions in the empty skyscraper. We as viewers are forced to take his personal opinions as facts, which is sometimes hard to accept for viewers with some knowledge of the subject matter. On the other hand, people with no or basic knowledge of the subject matter will find it hard to follow.
In summary, I may have overly focused on negative points in my review.
This was not my intention since this movie gives a rare insight into the world of investment banking, these people rarely want to be in the spotlight and it probably took some convincing to find a suitable interviewee (who probably only agreed because he quit his latest job and is in voluntary retirement now).
For example, hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones is still buying up any circulating copies of the 1987 PBS film 'Trader' featuring him and his firm Tudor Investments because he apparently hates the movie.
It may take years before we get another detailed insight into a trader's or investment banker's mind through a documentary.
I recommend this documentary for people interested in (investment) banking and the latest financial crisis as well as the ascent of globalized investment banking since around 1980.
In addition, I recommend the following movies as introductions on similar subjects:
- Inside Job (documentary, covers latest crisis) - Margin Call (fiction, covers latest crisis) - Barbarians at the Gate (1993 classic, based on a true story)
PS: Speaking of other movies, I was more than once reminded of the "Margin Call" setting when watching this movie. Both films take place in a eerily quiet skyscraper with artificially lit empty conference rooms and hallways; sort of a dehumanized setting with no natural sounds or other influences from the outside (real) world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After his 2011 fiction movie "Das System - Alles verstehen heißt alles
verzeihen", director Marc Bauder is back to his origins: the
documentary genre. Here he gives us an insight into the common
procedures in the financial world. The whole film, slightly under 1.5
hours, was shot in an office building which has been empty for a couple
years now since the major fusion of two companies. And as the setting
stays the same, so does the interviewee. From start to finish, we
basically have Rainer Voss, a man in his early 50s, who has been part
of the business world in an elevated position for decades until being
"let go" recently, tell us about how things really work and what the
current climate in that area is like. I have to admit that economy
isn't exactly one of my most passionate areas and this documentary
couldn't spark my interest either.
The protagonist is quite an interesting character though. Obviously he knows a great deal on the subject and is not shy of letting the viewer know. Occasionally, it seems almost arrogant, but there's also parts when it's pretty interesting as well. Here and there it got too scientific and he lost me, but the best parts were when he told about the interpersonal relationships and to what extent they do or do not actually exist until everybody inevitably gets flushed out of the whole process when they reach a certain age. Still they make a lot of money to that point. He tells that he made from his very first day in the business world more money than his craftsman father made before he went into retirement. Sometimes you could still see the ways of self-promotion in Voss' mannerisms that probably brought him as high up to where he got and it was all too self-centered to my taste, but you could also see that his profession sort of robbed him of all his illusions. Another thing I disliked was the way the interviewer (director?) handled the situation. I think it's better if we either don't hear him at all, even if he asks questions or if we hear him frequently. However, we hear him very rarely which I found a bit of a distraction and when he asked something it was mostly not fitting in a journalistically interesting way, but just digging deeper into the previous question which we may not even have heard before.
I'd really only recommend this movie to people with great interest into economics, maybe especially those who studied it. I'm curious if his prediction about France being the next bigger domino to fall will become reality. The one thing I take from this documentary is that it's indeed always the more kissing upwards and kicking downwards the more money is involved and it's an environment I wouldn't want to imagine working in.
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