The Skyscraper, an ivory tower of modernity where capital reigns supreme. The grand facade of steel and glass overlooks the masses, a modern symbol of power that sculpts the world. Christoph Hochhäusler's The City Below is an exquisitely designed thriller, a film of impressive formal precision that rigorously crafts a haunting experience in which the everyday cityscapes of modern living become figurative objects for Hochhäusler's penetrating tale of power. The directorial vision here is precise and just frankly, masterful. Cold, sterile interiors exude a quiet sense of alienation and social detachment while the grandiose glass facades of the skyscrapers are omnipresent in the exterior photography, their reflective edifices manipulated by Hochhäusler in a way that visually expresses the stark hierarchy of capital vs. labor, in which the powerful literally and figuratively live amongst the clouds looking down on others. Perhaps one of the greatest films of the decade, The City Below beautifully invokes the Financial crisis of 2008 and the lasting and likely recurrence of such issues through its deconstruction of power. Power intrinsically relies on coercion. For those who wield power, like Roland, the executive banker who rests at the fulcrum of this story, this subjugation, and acceptance by others is expected, it's just like breathing for him. It's the allowance of such power within our social order, how we in the west look up to it and ascribe virtue to it that enables this coercion both within our borders and beyond. Transnational capitalism of course relies on similar subjugation of the global south, and in this film's exceptional denouement The City Below posits that rebellion from such recurring economic subjugation is inevitable. One of the defining films of its respective decade, The City Below is a stone-cold, meticulously designed socio-economic thriller that uses the erotic thriller framework of infidelity and desire to deliver a potent critique of transnational capitalism - this one deserves a far larger audience
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