The Counterfeiters Reviews
"The Counterfeiters" tells the true story of a group of Jewish prisoners who were recruited from other camps for such a career--much against their wishes, if not for the threat of death. Being skilled craftsmen in their own right, they are all brought together, and realize that so long as they deliver the counterfeit bills to their captives, they'll be spared their lives. Boastful, talented Russian-Jewish counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch is sent to the Sachenhausen concentration camp to orchestrate the operation, and forced to deal with a psychopathic guard named Holst (Martin Brambach), who only wants results. At first Salomon has no issues helping the Nazi's for comfortable conditions for himself and staff, but over time it begins to take it's toll. He is torn between his determination to stay alive with the knowledge that producing the perfect American dollar will affect the lives of his fellow workers, as well as undermine the entire Allied cause.
"The Counterfeiters" differs from other films involving the Holocaust in that the emphasis is on the personal moral choices that are made--rather than the overall horror and despair. The two barracks of Jews working on the project are kept in what they call a "golden cage," in which they have enough to eat, beds with clean linen, and piped-in opera music to drown out the sounds of the murders committed on the other side of their thin plywood walls. The prisoners' dilemma over whether to assist the Germans and thereby ensure their continued survival is the heart of the movie, which keeps the focus on moral imperatives rather than the physical ravages of the camps. Ruzowitzky's film is so gripping because his is able to simulate the daily horror's of these men with remarkable subtlety; although the workers are sheltered from seeing the brutality and torture, the screams alone are terrifying. Karl Markovics gives a phenomenal, profound performance and his disturbing moral ambiguity is a the heart of this incredible true story. Stefan Ruzowitzy adapted the book by Adolf Burger, one of the protagonist's fellow prisoners (Diehl). Ruzowitzky's script is beautifully constructed, and to his credit, does not take a position on the internal debate, but gives the viewer enough leeway to question what they would have done in similar circumstances.
I want to see the rest of it, I can see why it earned Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
This is an extraordinary, intriguing, story based on true events. A handful of Auschwitz prisoners were picked out for their counterfeit-skills in order to transact "Operation Bernard", which was one german strategy to ruin US's and UK's economy and thereafter win the war. Most of the prisoners survival instinct (they were told of course by the nazis, no one was irreplaceable and would be executed instantly if they refused), made them drive forward. The prisoner group was quite a variation of characters who was placed in Auschwitz for different causes, and therefor had different attitudes about helping the germans winning the war. Some cared for their lives, and some cared for their idealism and would die for it.
The biggest mission for the prisoners which is considered close to impossible, and no one had ever succeeded before, was to counterfeit the dollar. Failing would cost their lives.
The fact that no one was irreplaceable was true with one exception; Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Marcovics), known as "The King" of the counterfeiters. If anyone would succeed with this impossible task, it was him which brings him lots of moral responsibility.
The sacred codex in the camp is to never give anyone in, and Sorowitsch is a man with very strong moral principles. He is in the middle of two interests; the ones who won't risk their lives and do the best they can to deliver the dollar, and the radical political leftist, Adolf Burger (August Diehl) who sees no option but to sabotage the operation for the idealistic cause. Sorowitsch, himself doesn't care about anything but getting out there alive, but won't turn Burger in, and even prevents other prisoners from killing him.
The antagonist is nazi supervisor Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow). Herzog knew Sorowitsch long before, and also is aware of the fact he is irreplaceable. The two of them have respect for each other, despite they in fact are enemies. Herzog has no personal interest in eliminating jews, he only sees it as a duty to serve his country, and support his family. But he doesn't get fooled why it's taking so long for the counterfeit dollar to be ready. So he pleads to Sorowitsch to stop the sabotage before they'll all get killed.
Needless to say, this is an extremely suspenseful movie! There are a couple of scenes you won't forget in the first place. Holocaust-movies tend to get polarized (naturally!), but this movie stands out because you learn of different sides of the characters, nazi's and non-nazis.
The scrip is tremendously well written, captivating and the acting is extremely professional. This belongs with no doubt to my top five favorite german movies! Watch it, for goodness sake!