‘Rich, Russian & Living in London’: a title worthy of Channel 4, but it is, in fact, the name of the BBC’s latest foray into cutting-edge documentary.
An account of a selection of wealthy Russian-Londoners, we delve into the depths of a world unseen by, and unknown to most of the population. Those of us who cannot afford rhinestone-encrusted Jaguars or whimsically spend hundreds of thousands on an artwork. It is, in a way, for the majority of the documentary, a sort of fetishisation of a high-life, seemingly without care or consequence. A disgustingly gluttonous display of excess.
It is appealing.
But it is capitalism on steroids.
A reaction against years of suppression and corruption in Russia (although the latter is merely hinted at). They have signed up holus-bolus to the worshipping of money, which today’s affluent London seems to embody. The people central to the documentary seem to have differing ideas about what it means to be wealthy. For most, they wish to be part of a “cultural elite” rather than necessarily simply a “money elite”. To be wealthy is to be in a position to give to charity and the arts. Here, the role of art and the arts, serves a social function. An old-fashioned notion that money can buy something that is ‘cultured’, and the social respect that comes with it.
Perhaps the films’ strength lies not so much in its content (Russians have been flooding to London since the ‘90s), but in the time it has been released. We are living in a world of economic collapse, a widening gap between rich and poor, cuts to the arts, and in this case most importantly, Russia’s conflict and assertion of power in the likes of Crimea and Ukraine.
It poses a stark contrast between these people’s lives and reality.