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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Die Fälscher (2007) AKA The Counterfeiters



It takes a clever man to make money, it takes a genius to stay alive.

A deft blend of suspense and docudrama, Stefan Ruzowitzky's sixth feature focuses on history's largest counterfeiting operation. Before World War II breaks out, Salomon Sorowitsch (the compact yet steely Karl Markovics), a Russian-born Jew, lives the good life in Berlin. He forges documents, like passports and banknotes, and sketches beautiful women to the romantic strains of tango records. Sorowitsch's dolce vita comes to an end when he's sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. Once Reich officials decide to deploy imprisoned printers, craftsmen, and bank officials to counterfeit foreign currency, they draft Sorowitsch for "Operation Bernhard" and ship him to Sachsenhausen. Though he and his colleagues receive preferential treatment, the threat of execution hangs over their heads at all times. First, they master the pound; then they tackle the American dollar. At this point, communist co-worker Adolf Burger (The Ninth Day's excellent August Diehl) suggests sabotage. As he explains, they're extending the conflict and increasing the death toll, but the entire team will suffer if they fail, even their SS supervisor, Freidrich Herzog (Downfall's Devid Striesow), whose career depends on it. As Jews, however, they stand to lose more than their jobs. Based on Burger's book The Devil's Workshop, Austria's Ruzowitzky (Anatomy) sheds a compassionate light on the guilt and complicity of survivors. Though The Counterfeiters plays more like a prison camp movie than a Holocaust drama--Stalag 17 comes to mind--that doesn't make it any less significant, just less wrenching than some of its counterparts. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Academy Awards, USA
YearResultAwardCategory/Recipient(s)
2008 Won Oscar Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Austria.


The New Germany and Austria by extension have been in the process, these past several years, of divesting themselves of National Guilt in regards to the atrocities of World War 2: "Sophie Scholl," "Downfall" and also the superb "Lives of Others" (though set in post WWII East Berlin, it reeks of submission and totalitarianism) speak to the redemptive qualities of confession and penance.
And now we have "The Counterfeiters," the story of Solomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a Russian-born Jew who spends his life forging documents thereby attaining the reputation of a master counterfeiter. Ultimately he is arrested and sent to a Camp at which he is given the assignment of forging the British Pound note for The Third Reich. This is 1945 and the disastrous German War effort is in dire need of cash to carry on its war effort.
"Counterfeiters" is all about survival and to what means we, as human beings will do to comply in order to go on living. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky is walking a slipper slope here as the counterfeiting was done in the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen and the technicians involved were almost all Jews, "The Counterfeiters" raises some provocative moral dilemmas.
Also, the Sorowitsch of Markovics is no paragon of honor. Instead he is a squirrelly, only thinking for himself, con man. He's happy to do what the Nazi's ask of him in order to get the perks of his "exalted position" in Sachsenhausen: clean clothes, good food, soft bedding, and weekly hot showers. "The Counterfeiters" begins with a post war sequence of Sorowitsch spending thousands of counterfeit British Pounds in Monte Carlo: gambling, grooming himself, dining, dating...basically enjoying the fruits of his labors and those of his fellow counterfeiters.
Sorowitsch is one who feels that: "Only by surviving can we defeat them."
"The Counterfeiters" is a difficult film to like but ultimately it speaks to something in all of us: the drive, the desperate need to survive despite the circumstances that we might find ourselves. Sorowitsch is flawed, a nasty piece of work actually but he's intelligent, crafty and grudgingly and ultimately deserving of our respect. By MICHAEL ACUNA




Torrent: here (english subs included)
All subs: here

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