A sweeping – and sobering – account of the way that concentrated wealth has both shaped our past and is creating a deeply unequal future. Based on economist Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book.
A 700-page tome on wealth inequality, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century was an unlikely bestseller in 2014 – and went on to sell 1.5 million copies. Brought to the big screen by director Justin Pemberton, Piketty’s thesis is crisply presented in a documentary purposefully light on graphs and numbers, and heavy on top-notch talking heads, visuals of the rich and famous, and stylised historical recreations.
There is nothing inevitable about the march towards greater equality, argues Piketty. The normal order of things has been a world in which the wealthiest one percent owns around seventy percent of all assets. The ‘golden age’ of greater equality between 1950 and 1980 was an aberration. Relaying this story in saturated colours and through archival footage blended with film sequences both old and new, Pemberton creates a hallucinatory effect – and a reflection on the bizarre excesses of wealth.
The film carries a warning too: that we could be rapidly reverting to Victorian levels of wealth inequality. Piketty, all Gallic charm and intensity, argues for wider ownership of wealth, so that we all enjoy its returns. That way, we might avoid a ‘pauperised’ future.
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