"The Counterfeiters" -- The title of the movie may sound like the tale of a bank robber. Actually, it is a world war II tale. But this is not a war movie. This drama based on true historical events shines a light onto yet another darkness of the Holocaust. It is controversial, since the film is concerned about Jewish collaboration with the Nazis. The Counterfeiters/Die Falscher (Austrian film) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2007. Although this isn't Schindler's List, it is sensitively acted, crisply directed and written with not an ounce of sentimentality.
Tim Blake Nelson's 2001 movie "The Grey Zone" explored about the Sonderkommandos in Auschwitz. They were forced on threat of their own deaths, to aid at the grisly task of burning of the corpses of those already murdered by Nazi's. Based upon the book "The Devil's Workshop", The Counterfeiters raises the same moral question like Grey Zone from a slightly different perspective.
The movie starts with the protagonist, Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) arriving in post-war Monte Carlo carrying a briefcase stacked with crisp banknotes. Yet something looks amiss in his life, as he is silent and distant, flagging where there should be swagger. The key for his silence -- we come to know -- is a set of numbers tattooed on his forearm. The flash-back takes us to mid-1930s, where Sorowitsch, a Russian Jew forger, is considered as the world's best counterfeiter. Even though he operates out of Berlin, his weakness for women makes him a captive for Freidrich Herzog (Devid Striesow). He is transported a labor camp and gains a little though painting family portraits (for Nazis).
Later, in 1944, he is recruited by his old nemesis, Herzog for the counterfeiting project, where the skilled professionals slept on soft mattresses, played table tennis while the unlucky masses were marched and shot. At this time, World War II was not going well for the Nazis. Their aim for this counterfeiting contrive is to forge hundred of millions of British pounds, and then go after the U.S. dollar in an attempt to destabilize Allied economies while financing the Nazi war effort. This was a kind of metal torture for the counterfeiting Jews -- a chance to survive, but only if they helped the Reich survive as well. And so, the toughest pragmatist sets to work, doing what he does best without betraying his fellows: Adolf Burger (August Diehl) the communist typographer, Karloff (Sebastian Urzendowsky) the dreamy Russian youth.
Although the book adapted is Burger's autobiography, it is more about Sally than Burger. That's because, the director Ruzowitzky wants us to consider the much more troubling complicity of Sally. He never invests Sally with much of redemptive features and gives no clue to how his attitude might shift at the end, but through Sally he forces to look inwards. What would be our mentality if placed under the same circumstances? Ruzowitzky takes up the moral debate of what's worth dying and living for. He paces the action swiftly - with a few of hand-held realism. He’s also careful to respect the harsh reality in which his thoughtful movie is firmly rooted (the attention to detail that went into the operation is perfect).
Markovics as Sally is quiet riveting. You won't even be sure how Markovics conveys a full spectrum of emotion without ever seeming to move his face. He deftly balances his own instinct for survival with the moral conundrum of the forgers’ situation. Striesow as the officer in charge of the project -- a guy who makes an opportunity even in the mass murders -- is equally powerful.
Watch "The Counterfeiters" because it sheds light on another facet of Nazi history, and does it with an attention to the complexity of human nature. An cinematic experience which is haunting -- both emotionally and intellectually.
The Counterfeiters - IMDb