Review of The Counterfeiters

Review of the Counterfeiters written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Rating ****

It's rare when a film that is written and directed by the same individual turns out to be really good. This film is the exception. It is a foreign film with subtitles, but don't let that scare you away. Once you get into the story you'll forget all about the subtitles.

This is the true story of how a group of skilled printers and artists were used by the Nazis to forge documents, passports, and foreign currency including the British pound and the American dollar. All of this took place within the compounds of a concentration camp.

The basis of the story is a book written by one of the men who took part in the counterfeiting. His character in the story, however, takes a back seat to the main character Salomon Sorowitsch who is played by Karl Markovics. Sorowitsch is a counterfeiter who is caught by the Nazis and put into the Mauthausen concentration camp in an effort to improve the quality of the currency they are trying to reproduce. The major conflict in the story is between Sorowitsch's effort to please his captors and survive and the character Adolf Burger whose only goal is to sabatoge the entire operation and prevent the Nazis from accomplishing their goal, which is to destabilize the British economy.

I've seen a number of Holocaust films and this film manages to capture the atrocities without actually showing them, except for a few select scenes. Most of the time the killings are just talked about or referenced or experienced out of sight.

As the war was coming to an end, the presses and forged currency was boxed up and sent to the Alps, where it was intentionally sunk in a lake. Only when the Nazis abandon the camp do you get to see the stark contrast between the living conditions for the counterfeiters and those of the rest of the camp's population. Not that the counterfeiters had it made. It was, after all, a concentration camp and the fear of death was always present.

The DVD has some great extras including a behind the scenes short and an audio commentary.

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