Friday, March 21, 2008

Film Review: The Counterfeiters

by Eric Green

The Counterfeiters
2007; One hour and 38 minutes

After the Oscar debate on which film should have received the best film of the Year 2007: There Will Be Blood; No Country for Old Men; and, even Michael Clayton….the real answer is the German film, the Counterfeiters. This film won the best foreign language film, but easily deserved the best overall.

If you thought, as I certainly did, that Daniel Day-Lewis was a shoe in for best actor; after seeing Karl Markovics, I would reevaluate and say that it was at least a tie.

Markovics played Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch, a printer, with an amazing skill in counterfeiting documents. He was arrested by the Nazis for practicing this skill to help people opposed to their rule. That took place in the late 1930s.

Sally's life came from the memoir, "The Devil's Workshop," written by Adolph Burger. Burger was an Austrian within the Nazis concentration, prison system. This is true story that finally was produced for a major, commercial film. It took an Austrian and a German producer to make it happen. And, it took a great director and screenwriter, Stefan Ruzowitzky to put it on the screen.

The story is a simple one: Should prisoners, in this case Jewish prisoners, cooperate with their jailers, Nazis, to survive? The film takes place in 1944, at the Sachsenhausin, concentration camp. In this case the 25 or so Jewish prisons chose to produce fake English pounds to disrupt the English economy. Their choice was produce the documents are die. They chose to produce them. It was called, "Operation Bernhard." But, when the demand came to produce a USA dollar, the growing resentments surfaced. Sally, the genius of currency fakery, is up against another prisoner who wants to stop the cooperation and put an end to their collaboration.

The Counterfeiters was chosen over 4 other films for the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language film of the year. The acceptance speech was very special.

"There have been some great Austrian filmmakers working here," Ruzowitsky said in his acceptance speech. "Thinking of Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Preminger, most of them had to leave my country because of the Nazis, so it sort of makes sense that the first Austrian movie to win an Oscar is about the Nazis' crimes."


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