The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher (2007)

Starring: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Martin Brambach, August Zirner, Dolores Chaplin

Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky

R. 99 mins

A bleak and mature film that asks the audience what they might do if their only chance at survival required them to aid the Nazi regime. Based on Adolf Burger’s novel, The Devil’s Workshop, Ruzowitzky has written and directed this morally complex (true!) story. Just as WWII begins, Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a talented artist who has made quite the living from forging counterfeit bills, is arrested by the Germans and taken to the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp. The guards take a liking to ‘Sally’ and as their resident artist, he receives slightly better treatment than the other prisoners. Five years later he swept away to Sachsenhausen, where he and a special group of prisoners are enlisted to forge counterfeit bills as the German war effort is almost bankrupt and this is their last hope to destabilize the Allies. A fellow prisoner, Adolf Burger (August Diehl, who some may recognize from Inglorious Basterds) attempts to ruin Sally’s efforts because he would rather die than aid the Nazis. It’s not a wonder this tale of moral ambiguity won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Though Sally isn’t the most likeable protagonist, the performances are powerful and the direction creates that palpable sense of claustrophobia. Is it the best film on the subject? No. But The Counterfeiters comes pretty close – * * * 1/2

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