Team Spirit, not such an outsider
by Aurore Engelen
- Christophe Barratier recounts the dazzling rise and fall of Jérôme Kerviel, the outsider at the heart of the biggest scandal in global finance
Jérôme is a young small-town guy who dreams of the bright lights of Paris and the world of finance, which timidly holds its arms open to him. Recently hired by Société Générale, he embraces the team spirit advocated by the boss, a sort of guru around whom some people see a special aura whilst others see the strings he’s pulling. Jérôme is seduced by his boss, and impressed by the skyscrapers in the business district of Paris and the floor traders who are as boastful as they are euphoric. That’s where his Grail lies, on the trading floor. He very quickly finds his groove, working his way up to surpass the best, and reach stratospheric profit levels.
Jérôme Kerviel is an outsider, as his motives seem far removed from those of his peers. Despite the fact that he’s making money for the company hand over fist, he seems to have no desire for personal gain, accepting bonuses that are a joke compared to the amounts he’s bringing in for the bank. But Kerviel is at the heart of the system, he takes advantage of the smallest of cogs, those that have been shown to him or taught to him by the bank executives, starting with his mentor. Indeed, the original French title of Team Spirit [+see also:
film profile] literally translates as ‘The Outsider’, but previously, Christophe Barratier’s film, which was screened at the Brussels Film Festival, bore a French title that translates literally as Team Spirit. Kerviel is plunged into a chain of events that unfolds in a place cut off from the outside world, a place that is full of men (literally, as women are almost completely absent from the floor) but is dehumanised, where nothing makes sense except the numbers that fly by at top speed in all directions on the many black screens of the deranged traders. Barratier portrays the trading floor like a sports field (with the men playing ball between themselves), where every colleague has the potential to be a supporter or an adversary, where the cult of performance lies at the heart of the relations between these men. Whilst many of them are willing to go to great lengths to succeed, move forward and blow everyone away, others are willing to do anything, at times electrified and numbed by a mortifying addiction to speculation. Kerviel knows no bounds anymore. With his superiors and trading floor colleagues only half paying attention, he smashes through his limits.
Although we don’t necessarily come out the other end of the film any more clued up on the whys and wherefores of how a man could have earned, without anybody noticing, €1.5 billion for a bank in one year, then losing €4.9 billion in one month, Kerviel’s trajectory becomes a lot clearer. Telling the classic tale of a dazzling rise following by an equally as dazzling fall, surfing on the aesthetic codes of the thriller and psychological drama genres (highlighted by the classic but effective score composed by Philippe Rombi), Christophe Barratier refrains from sending the viewer to sleep with technical explanations that would probably be incomprehensible, to focus on and portray the psychological breakdown of the young trader up close and personal.
Written by Christophe Barratier and Laurent Turner, Team Spirit is based on L’Engrenage, the book published by Kerviel in 2010. It is Arthur Dupont who lends his fiery ingenuousness to the character of Kerviel, supported by François-Xavier Demaison, with potent cynicism, flanked by a troupe of young larger-than-life go-getters. The film is produced by Galatée Films, in co-production with France 2 Cinéma, Logline Studios, Mizar Films, Gecko Films and Outsider Films. It’s being sold internationally and distributed in France by Le Pacte, where it will be released on 22 June, the same date it will be released in Belgium, where it’s being distributed by Athena Films.
(Translated from French)
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