Margin Call (2011)

margin_call_ver8_xlgIt may be that Margin Call isn’t the best movie ever made (rest assured – it isn’t). It may well be that it isn’t even the best movie released in 2011 (see above). It may quite possibly be something that you present at master-class workshops during the lecture on “Do’s and don’ts of movie-making”. Nevertheless, it may well be one of the most interesting movies of 21st century. Considering what I’ve just said, you can’t see how this last statement could possibly be true? Well, it’s counter-intuitive, I’ll grant you that. If Margin Call does something well, than it does this – it presents you with one hell of a complex world and leaves you hanging in there. The thing is that this complex world isn’t extrapolated fiction, nor is it allegory, nor a metaphor, nor any kind of neat trick artists usually use. The world of Margin Call is a world we live in. It’s just that you probably never have been around those parts. It’s okay, people dwelling there don’t actually need you. What they do, affects you whether you care about it or not. On the surface Margin Call may seem just like another market—crash movie but careful and observant viewer can make it much more interesting. After all, outside the world of documentaries, one doesn’t often need a dictionary just to trot along a plot (sure, you can interpret this as a sign of bad writing, but that would be highly reductive). Sometimes, though, even a dictionary doesn’t help much.

bscap0001Anyway, few of my friends make a living doing high finance. Not quite sure if they did watch this or not, but if they did I imagine that their reaction, or amount of baffledness wouldn’t be quite the same. We don’t discuss these things when we meet for coffee or a beer. It isn’t just that after long hours of work you don’t want to be talking about it to anyone, it’s that there really wouldn’t be any point to that. I couldn’t understand them, just like they can’t understand me when I go into my academic-philosophy mode of communicating with people. Discourse is both the problem and a solution but that’s a story for some other time. There’s a key point here. However similar in their hermeticity these discourses are, in actuality they are immensely different. The discourse of high-finance affects this globality we live in. The discourse of high-philosophy affects no one but a lone individual. In that light, main point of Margin Call stops being something banal as “They knew it [market crash] would happen, They [evil as they are] let it happen”. Instead, it realizes itself as a question – how did we put so much power into hands of people we can’t understand?

bscap0000The key note of democracy (though democracy really isn’t an issue here) or any sort of government is the concept of legibility. Our president cannot speak Mandarin (unless you live in China that is), nor can Congress members debate policies in Zulu sign language. There can’t be that sort of a gap between those who rule and those that are ruled. When Margin Call presents us with people whose actions have lasting consequences to many things across the Globe, and we can’t make heads or tails of their reasoning (unless we’re experts), then we find ourselves in a difficult position. If it were just a movie, we could dismiss it as a bad writing and not think more about it. Since it stopped being a move from the moment lights flickered on, we can’t dismiss it at all. So, if you want to think (and Margin Call presents us with lot of possibilities to do just that) try cracking this one – what really happened in this move? In a related story – what is happening in the world of high-finance right now? Who is keeping a check on that? How do you know that keepers are telling you the truth? And finally – how many years of extensive study would it take you to find that on your own? You can learn the lingo, of course. In the meantime, world will keep turning and things will happen whether you understand them or not. We all felt the impact of the events of Margin Call. All that remains is connecting the threads and not letting it happen again. Sadly, for this to transpire, quite a lot of people should suddenly develop both skills and interest in the study of high-finance. Not gonna happen. Funny thing is, it isn’t even a sole subject one should take care of. World is an infinitely complex place and films such as this one make sure that we remember just that. It’s so easily forgotten. All these crazy ideologies that keep springing around us are quite good reminder of how easy is to let go. Crowd thinks much clearer but sadly, we can’t afford that.

Directed by J.C. Chandor
Produced by Joe Jenckes
Robert Ogden Barnum
Corey Moosa
Michael Benaroya
Neal Dodson
Zachary Quinto
Written by J.C. Chandor
Starring Kevin Spacey
Paul Bettany
Jeremy Irons
Zachary Quinto
Penn Badgley
Simon Baker
Mary McDonnell
Demi Moore
Stanley Tucci
Music by Nathan Larson
Cinematography Frank DeMarco
Edited by Pete Beaudreau
Before the Door Pictures
Washington Square Films
Untitled Entertainment
Sakonnet Capital Partners

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