Real-life story of WWII forger makes for gripping German cinema

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)

on January 02, 2008 by Richard Mowe
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After The Life of Others, here comes another piece of evidence that the renaissance of German-language cinema is more than just a fleeting one-off wonder. Even more incredible is the fact that this devastatingly effective wartime thriller is based upon real events.

In 1936, the Nazis established the largest counterfeiting operation in history, with the intention of flooding the British and American economies with fake currency. Enlisted to assist were any concentration camp inmates with skills in the right department—among them master forger, gambler and playboy Salomon Sorowitsch. Wonderfully played here by Karl Markovics, “Sally,” as he is popularly known, is a charismatic rogue who is at first energized by his new task (and by the superior quarters and treatment that his status affords him).

As the war grinds on, the moral frailty of Sally's position becomes more and more apparent, and he must choose which side he's on. Participating in the scam secures Sorowitsch a more than comfortable living—until he starts to realize that his participation is aiding Hitler’s increasingly sinister war machine. The moral dilemmas marshalled by Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky prove absolutely gripping, and the whole film is alive with style and intelligence.

Distributor: Sony Classics
Cast: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Dolores Chaplin, August Zirner and Marie Bäumer
Director/Screenwriter: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Producers: Josef Aichholzer, Nina Bohlmann and Babette Schröder
Genre: Drama; German-language, subtitled
Rating: R for some strong violence, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: February 22, 2008 NY/LA
Reviewed: 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival

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