Bauer’s Master of the Universe Is a Diagnosis of a Financial System That’s Hopelessly Sick


“Only simpletons believe the market is capable of learning,” says Rainer Voss, long a top investment banker in Germany and now patiently, powerfully dishing for Marc Bauder’s camera.

That statement’s not exactly true, of course. As Voss demonstrates early on in the marathon interview comprising most of Master of the Universe, the market learns quickly, something like the way velociraptors learn to open doors: It will adapt to take every advantage that it can. It rewards the largest, most powerful clients and sticks it to governments, small businesses, and individual investors. (They always lose, Voss insists.)

What it can’t learn, Voss argues, is to regulate itself, despite the post-bust promises of the banks that drove Greece, Spain, and — soon, he says — France to disaster. He warns: “Some people have an interest in the collapse of the Euro. There’s an enormous potential profit there.”

But he’s not a full-on anti-capital scold, and at one point even argues this of the impossibly complicated credit-default swap schemes that tanked so many countries’ economies: “I reject the idea that criminal elements are at work trying to outwit other people.” Voss’s interview, the only one in the film, comes closer to testimony than to the usual talking heads of contemporary documentary. He’s sometimes defensive, sometimes proud, often despairing.

Fittingly, he’s interviewed in a long-abandoned office suite in a glass tower overlooking the financial district of Frankfurt. The photography is gorgeous, the talk hushed and urgent, the message infuriating.

Bauder’s film is a diagnosis of a system that is hopelessly sick and not being treated. Bring a stress ball to squish up as you watch.