Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Topical Budget 601-2: More Camera Peeps at Ruhritania (1923)


Main image of Topical Budget 601-2: More Camera Peeps at Ruhritania (1923)
35mm, black and white, silent, 89 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company
Camera OperatorFrank 'Taxi' Purnell

Sarcastic mockery of the Germans at a time when the country was struggling with hyperinflation.

Show full synopsis

This fascinating Topical Budget item reveals that, less than five years after the end of World War I, popular attitudes towards Germany had not exactly mellowed. Outwardly unexceptional images of Germany in early 1923 are announced by viciously sarcastic title cards, with the clear aim of mocking the country as it plunged into the hyperinflation that would wreck its economy. (The German term 'Schadenfreude', the mocking of another's misfortunes, seems singularly appropriate here).

In January 1923, economic pressure had forced Germany to default on the war reparation payments that had been established by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. As a result, the French Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré despatched 60,000 troops under General Degoutte (mentioned in the film's first title) to occupy the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland (described here as 'Ruhritania', in backhanded homage to the fictional central European nation of Ruritania, created by Anthony Hope in his 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda, already filmed three times by 1923). This led to widespread resistance amongst the Germans, which culminated in mass industrial action that threw the economy into total chaos.

Although the hyperinflation was still in its early stages by March, one of the title cards reads "The Germans are building enormous Banks. Does the paper money take so much room?" By the middle of the year, the answer was clearly "yes", as workers were paid in boxfuls of banknotes that rapidly became worthless, and the Reichsbank was drawing on 300 paper factories to print its money.

Topical Budget's lack of sympathy can also be gauged by the tone of the title card referring to a shot of the river Rhine in flood being caused by the Rhineland "bursting with tears". But the unrest would have globally far-reaching consequences: a few months later, Adolf Hitler would form the Nazi Party in direct response to the events of 1923.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete item (1:28)