Human Capital


More than one thousand years ago, our ancestors put money values on human lives. If you killed someone, you had to pay compensation, and the amount of that compensation varied with the standing of the victim – a dead lord cost lots more than a dead serf. The Italian film Human Capital builds a well-constructed drama around this theme. It is a movie about veneers, and how high finance is driven by greed and stupidity. There are three families on different rungs on the ladder. The greed and stupidity are exemplified by the real estate agent on the middle rung who wants to cash in with the hedge fund run by the guy on the top rung, and there is a Romeo and Juliet story about children on the middle and bottom rungs. The men are frightful jerks and the wives are, for better or worse, there for the ride: well, at least the second wife of the agent has a position which leaves her better off than the one at the top who has nothing. All the marriages are broken, and the parents have failed their wilfully spoiled children. Everything screams falsehood – who wants a chauffeur to drive the Maserati? – and when trouble looms, the stampede to the lifeboats is ghastly. The plot revolves around the part played by the spoiled children in a hit and run on a waiter after their school function, and the result is a disturbing insight into just how bad it gets when Mammon becomes God. There is high Italian style about very human failings relieved by some black humour in a movie that will be watched in awed relief by those who have kept their children out of the nut house and the big house. Welcome to the Kingdom of Nothingness.