Capital (book & movie)

Wir sind alle Millionäre

Ich stolperte auf Arte über eine interessante Serie, die in London spielt. „Wir sind alle Millionäre“ beruht auf dem Buch „Capital“ von John Lanchester und handelt von der Gentrifizierung in London.

Zeitnah. Erschreckend ehrlich. Empfehlenswert!


Text: Arte
Illustration: Sarah Nickel, München

Darum geht’s: Bislang ist die Pepys Road von Gentrifizierung und Immobilienboom nur gestreift worden. Doch nun dämmert es den Bewohnern der einstigen Arbeiterhäuser, dass sie zu Millionären aufgestiegen sind. – Brillantes Gesellschaftsporträt (2015), das sein Gespür für hochaktuelle Themen beweist. Regie: Euros Lyn

Pepys Road in einem Londoner Vorort: Ihre Bewohner können sich, dank Gentrifizierung und dem überhitzten Immobilienmarkt der Hauptstadt, Millionäre nennen. Doch damit beginnen die Probleme: Roger Yount ist ein erfolgreicher Banker – mit zwei Kindern und einer verwöhnten Ehefrau. Dass er zu Weihnachten nicht die erwartete eine Million Pfund Jahresprämie erhält, stürzt die Familie in eine Krise. Die betagte Witwe Petunia Howe lebte schon in der Pepys Road, als diese noch eine einfache Arbeiterstraße war. Statt ihre Tochter Mary um Hilfe zu bitten, sucht sie Beistand bei der pakistanischen Familie Kamal, die um die Ecke ein Kiosk betreibt. Die simbabwische Politesse Quentina schreibt unterdessen Strafzettel für die Falschparker in der Straße, ohne über eine Arbeitserlaubnis zu verfügen. Der polnische Handwerker Bogdan liebt die Frauen, und die Frauen lieben ihn. An einem ganz normalen Tag liegt bei allen stolzen Eigenheimbesitzern dieser Straße eine merkwürdige Nachricht im Briefkasten: „Wir wollen, was ihr habt“. Als die immer gleichen Botschaften sich häufen und Fotos hinzukommen, die deutlich die Häuser und deren Eigentümer abbilden, steigt die Verunsicherung und Angst in der Pepys Road.

Die dreiteilige Serie „Wir sind alle Millionäre (1/3)“ gibt es noch wenige Tage kostenlos in der: Arte Mediathek


Capital review – a complicated and brilliant portrait of London life

text: The Guardian
illustration: Sarah Nickel, München

The eponymous novel by John Lanchester is transported to an all-too-recognisable suburban street, unfolding the lives of its complex residents, where somebody wants what they have.

How much of a city of 8.5 million can you get into one south London street? Capital (BBC1), adapted from John Lanchester’s novel, manages a lot.

Petunia is at 84 (Pepys Road and about that in years, too), an old-school native who has been here for ever. The modern metropolitan world might confuse her a bit (Gemma Jones is so good at being old and confused) – Indians, Pakistanis, Hindus, Muslims, what is the difference? – but she’s more accepting of it than her recently deceased husband. Ahmed, who’s very good to Petunia, and his family, second generation Pakistani immigrants, run the corner shop. Roger, a banker, and his family, who don’t know Petunia or Ahmed, are in the big double-fronted number 92, with the Range Rover outside.

But then there’s everything and everyone else that comes with them. So Petunia’s grandson is a hoodied Banksy-style street artist, who may or may not have something to do with the postcards with “WE WANT WHAT YOU HAVE” written on them that keep coming through everyone’s door. At the shop, Ahmed and his brothers, Shahid and Usman, have varying relationships with Islam, ranging from very casual to susceptible to fundamentalism. Mum appears at the dinner table, courtesy of Skype, from Pakistan.

And at 92, it’s not just Roger and his big-spending wife, Arabella, and their expensively schooled boys, Conrad and Joshua, but also the army of subsidiary personnel required to keep a family like that ticking over and help them spend their money – Spanish nannies, flirty eastern European builders to build wet rooms and then unbuild them when they go out of fashion, gardeners, etc. Then, in the street, visible to most only as an irritation, is the most recent arrival, Zimbabwean asylum seeker/illegal worker Quentina, slapping parking tickets on the cars. Go on, put another on the Range Rover, it’s so big (especially next to the man who drives it; Roger is played – capitally – by Toby Jones).

Meanwhile, the house prices flick up at a terrifying rate, like the numbers on a petrol pump in full flow. And, if we just rise up from the street and look in a north-easterly direction, there in the distance are the towers, the gherkins and cheese graters, of the City – mainly to thank/blame for the madness, as well as being where Roger scuttles off to each morning.

So, obviously, that’s not every single aspect of London, but Lanchester – and in turn Peter Bowker and Euros Lyn, who have adapted and directed so excellently – have managed to squeeze an incredible amount into one street, one book, and then further squeeze into three hours of television. A lot of the important stuff, as well as what is most wonderful and most terrible about the place.

It’s more complicated – and more interesting – than just wonderful and terrible. So Roger might be a banker (boo) and an idiot, but he’s not an entirely unsympathetic character. I even felt a bit sorry for him when his bonus was only £30,000. (“What use is £30,000 to anybody?”) Arabella is the real monster, almost too much of one (“Now where do you stand vis-a-vis cedar wood cladding?” to Bogdan the builder). But even she has an ember of humanity and is touched by the generosity of Ahmed with coriander on her first-ever visit to her local shop. Most of the viewer’s sympathy is directed towards Quentina, though. Who’d have thought it – traffic warden love?

It’s all so instantly recognisable. I live in the capital, in a street from a similar era, though in a far less salubrious area (house prices, obviously still insane, but about a third of Pepys Road). We have pretty much that exact shop. And a few – fewer and fewer – Petunias. There aren’t any bankers, or Range Rovers, or basement excavations, the City’s actual physical shadow hasn’t reached Dollis Hill yet, but the shadows of the shadows have, a couple of doctors moved in to where Jimmy (male Petunia, basically) lived, there’s a lawyer or two, plus the odd nanny. Not to mention the bloody Guardian. The issues, the conversations, the obsessions and the fears are the same.

It’s not just a brilliant allegorical portrait of London. There are stories to tell, the postcards keep coming, then DVDs, someone really WANTS WHAT THEY HAVE. Probably everyone does (I’m quite jealous of Arabella and Roger’s kitchen, to be honest). There’s some dodgy stuff going on in the bank, Petunia has a brain tumour and is dying, Arabella’s off, a new nanny arrives (well, hello), Quentina’s banged up and may be deported. We’re heading for a crash, big bang, meltdown. Is it that kind of Capital, too: not just principal city and wealth, but also punishable by death? Because Pepys Road, its residents, London itself, has cancer – a tumour of greed, and mistrust, hatred and pointlessness.


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