A genius con artist put to work by the Nazis
Running Time: 98 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: Austria, Germany
In 2007 Austrian Director Stefan Ruzowitzky wasn’t afraid to cross over two difficult genres in Oscar-winning true story The Counterfeiters and show that it’s not subject matter than wins at the Academy Awards but the quality of the film making.
The Counterfeiters mainly takes place in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany towards the end of World War Two. Set aside from the rest of the prisoners are a group of the finest Jewish fraudsters, bankers and scientists who have been brought together to forge the British Pound and the American Dollar in an attempt to bankrupt their enemies’ economies. Put in charge of this operation by slimy Camp Commandant Herzog (Striesow) is master counterfeiter Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Markovics), who must work with inmates like Burger (Diehl) who wants to sabotage the plan and others who think he is just a career criminal (which admittedly, he is).
The Counterfeiters concentrates on a smaller scale situation unlike the vast sweeping epics like Schindler’s List and The Pianist and so the theme of weighing up the lives of a few close friends and colleagues against countless masses is prevalent. The contrasts and constant moralising of Sally and Burger serve well to illustrate these two points of view and the tension builds as the audience wonders who will win out. Like in Schindler’s List, although the horrific actions of the holocaust are not at the forefront of the action, there is always a beacon of hope and possible resistance and humanity shining through. Importantly, the thriller aspect is worked in well with its setting and is never in danger of overshadowing its context.
We are treated to well-rounded characterisation which does not over-glorify the main protagonist but rather presents him as a lovable scoundrel with flaws and the weight of the world on his shoulders. The Nazi’s are portrayed in quite a similar way to most modern war movies, except for the more rational Kommandant Herzog but this results in him coming over a lot more creepily.
It's Got: A convincing setting, lots to think about and thrills too
It Needs: The power of Schindler's List or the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which seems to be slightly missing here
DVD Extras An often frustrating English commentary from the Director (complete with a slightly annoying batch of ums and ers), "Making Of" and "Burger History Lesson" featurette , interviews with Markovics, Ruzowitzky and Burger , "Q&A with Stefan Ruzowitzky", four deleted scenes and finally an American trailer - uneven but a good mix DVD Extras Rating: 7/10
Alternatives:Schindler's List, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Grey Zone
The Counterfeiters is a different kind of Holocaust movie – a more personalised tale concentrating on more of a thriller aspect without the sweeping history lesson of its vaunted Hollywood contemporaries. Nevertheless, Stefan Ruzowitzky still gives you enough open-ended moral questions to make you think and entertains along the way.