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See this movie.
antibyte23 November 2007
I just saw this movie in London last night. There were 5 people in the audience (including myself). What a shame because this was a solid piece of film-making. If you haven't seen The Counterfeiters, go see it. Here's why.

The acting is outstanding all the way through. You will learn more about counterfeiting efforts by the Nazis to undermine the British and Americans. This movie has numerous layers to it, and avoids the typical clichés that all Germans acted one way, and all Jews acted another way. You learn the subtle ways that control over other people is used to manipulate them. Do you put aside your beliefs in order to survive? If so, are you being true to those beliefs? Is it better to be a dead, morally right person or a live, less moral one? These are central themes. Finally, does how we make our wealth matter? These aren't ideas unique to cinema, but the way the movie presents them is.
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laughter in the dark
Mike Keating17 October 2007
Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch (Markovics) is a master counterfeiter, living a life of debauchery in pre-war Berlin, until his luck finally runs out, and he is captured and shipped out to the Mauthausen concentration camp. He witnesses the horrors of camp life; fellow prisoners are beaten, shot, and starved, but Sally, determined to survive, looks out for himself and uses his skills as an artist to secure a more comfortable lifestyle during his incarceration. After taking advantage of his talents, his superiors transfer him to Sachsenhausen, where he is to oversee the largest counterfeiting operation in history.

Here, Sally is provided with all the men and equipment he needs to crack the pound and the dollar; his criminal enterprises are now government funded. The price of failure is made clear, but the counterfeiters are also wary of the price of success, as once the currencies have been cracked, they will be surplus to requirements; their lives depend not only on their successes but also their failures.

This is where Burger (Diehl), the film's moral centre, comes into play. Unlike Sally, he sees the bigger picture, struggling to come to terms with the fact that while his work keeps him alive, it helps the Nazi war effort. Neither can he reconcile himself with the fact that while he lives in relative comfort other detainees, including his wife and children, live in squalor.

These moral dilemmas form the basis of the film, and in the face of the horrors of camp life, Sally tries to shrug them off with De Niro squints and smiles; the maxim that one must look after oneself is one repeated throughout the film. It's a very interesting idea, and it's one that is presented very well, both in terms of style and performance. The camera-work captures the bleak setting effectively, and the lead performances are uniformly excellent, but the use of tango for the score is inspired. The contrast between the music and the images adeptly complement the film's complicated moral tone. There is also a surprising amount of humour; while the bigger picture is indeed bleak, there are moments of comedy, and even if it is laughter in the dark, it is welcome and helps not only to carry the film along but humanise it and its characters.

The Counterfeiters is a very enjoyable film, which isn't something that can be said for many World War II "true stories". Its interesting exploration of adaptation and survival under extreme circumstances makes for an engaging story, and one that is definitely worth seeking out.
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Austria's Oscar contender
Superunknovvn10 February 2008
This is the rare - and by that I REALLY mean rare! - case of an Austrian movie being able to bear comparison with international competition. "Die Fälscher" is a well-made and touching movie about the Holocaust and a special division of Jews in a concentration camp that survived by counterfeiting money (or pretending to do so) for the Nazis. Karl Markovics is the shining light of the cast. Who thought that the guy who came to greater popularity by starring in "Kommissar Rex" would end up getting roles like this one and playing them to perfection? August Diehl is good, too, but he comes across as a bit too dramatic at times. The Nazis - and that's the only weakness of Stefan Ruzowitzky's movie - are the way they always are. Ruthless, cruel, craven and at the same time stupid pigs who do everything to humiliate the Jews at any time. Even though, that is probably the way 99% of them really were, it would have been more interesting to get a differentiated view on some of them.

While "Die Fälscher" may not reinvent the wheel, it is a pretty great movie. And although it's typical that Hollywood would pick only a Holocaust-story from Austria as an Oscar contender, it is exciting as hell for a movie from this country to get a nomination. I really hope that Stefan Ruzowitzky will get the award, because his movie deserves it and it could help the Austrian film industry to finally get momentum again.
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But Is It True?
John Peters3 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Most Holocaust narratives involve cruel Nazis and virtuous, victimized Jews. The Counterfeiters is at least a partial exception. The Nazis in the film are certainly cruel, but their cruelty is based on the perverted ideals of their racist ideology and on their need to obey orders or be killed rather than on their being innately evil men. They are capable of decency when it's in their interest.

The Jews in the special unit of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp depicted in The Counterfeiters are assembled because of their abilities in such skills as etching, printing, and, in the case of Salomon Sorowitsch, the film's protagonist, counterfeiting. The triangles sewn into their uniforms are a mixture of green (criminal), red (socialist or communist) and, in all cases, yellow (Jewish).

Other reviewers have ably described the major theme of The Counterfeiters, the conflict between, as David Denby puts it in the March 3, 2008 New Yorker, the relative heroism of "the morally intransigent man who refuses all compromise with evil, or the trimmer who partly collaborates with an oppressor in the hope of keeping himself and others alive". It may be significant that the German title of the film, Die Fälscher, can refer to falsifiers as well as counterfeiters.

Because The Counterfeiters is repeatedly described, by its publicists and others, as a "true story", I want to focus on some of the variations between the post-war interrogation statement given by Salomon Smolianoff, the real-life master counterfeiter portrayed in the film, and the events depicted in the movie. A photocopy of Smolianoff's original interrogation statement can be found on, the website of Lawrence Malkin, the author of Kreuger's Men, an account of counterfeiting operations during World War II.

My purpose is not to expose fabrications. Rather, it is to explore variations between life and art and to determine whether, in a particular work, these variations have a pattern that supports a consistent explanation.

• The Physical Setting: In the interrogation statement, Smolianoff describes being taken to "a special barrack, which was located in absolute isolation and surrounded by heavy barb-wire." In the movie, there are several occasions on which the relatively privileged participants in the counterfeiting operation are exposed to the screams of regular inmates who are being beaten and killed. Such witnessing would not have been possible with the degree of physical separation described by Smolianoff.

• Pounds and Dollars: In Smolianoff's narrative, he is transferred to Sachsenhausen, after counterfeit British pound notes have been successfully produced, in order to work on the more difficult forgery of American dollars. In the movie, Sorowitsch is involved with counterfeiting both pounds and dollars.

• The Man in Charge: In real life, the German counterfeiting effort was called Operation Bernhard after Bernhard Krueger, the SS man who headed it. In the movie, a fictional Inspector Herzog arrests Sorowitsch in the mid thirties and, coincidentally, heads the counterfeiting project during the final months of World War II.

• Sabotage: In the interrogation statement, Smolianoff describes the decision to sabotage the counterfeiting operation as occurring when the lights go out during an American air raid:

We took this occasion to agree between us for the first time to sabotaze (sic) the whole work. We dealt our tasks and agreed that in the future every one of us should complain about the work of the other, in order to gain time, because the situation of the war, promised to us an eventually (sic) escape from everything and a liberation by the approaching Allied troops…we fought each other really hard, but they couldn't miss (sic) us, because all the work depended on what we were producing.

In the movie, the sabotage is the result of continual discussion between Sorowitsch, the partial collaborator who is concerned primarily with survival, and Adolf Burger, a printer and Communist activist who is willing to sacrifice his life, along with the lives of his fellow prisoners, in order to hamper the German war effort. This is the conflict that David Denby refers to and considers, correctly in my opinion, to be the film's central focus.

Like Smolianoff, Burger is a real person. He wrote memoirs about his experiences shortly after the war and revised and re-published them, under the title The Devil's Workshop, in the 1970s. The introduction to an interview with Stefan Ryzowitzky, the director of The Counterfeiters (, states that "Burger played a small but significant part in both establishing and sabotaging the process, although in the film he is presented as the leader of the campaign to subvert the operation."

I believe that these examples show that there are consistent and coherent explanations for the ways in which Ryzowitzky adapted source material for his film: quite simply, to tell a better story and to emphasize the difference between the perspectives of Smolianoff/Sorowitsch and Burger. Throughout history, writers have adapted historical events to fit artistic purposes. Another, more extreme, cinematic example is in The Last King of Scotland where the Scottish doctor who befriends Idi Amin is entirely fictional.

These alterations are not on the level of the deceptions of Binjamin Wilkomirski in Fragments or Misha Defonsece in Misha: a Mémoire of the Holocaust Years. Although these books are presented as factual, they have, beyond any reasonably doubt, been exposed as creatures of their writers' imaginations. They present both short-term problems in that they give aid and comfort to those who wish to deny or minimize the Holocaust and more fundamental difficulties in that they lead readers to question the existence of historical truths at any level.

In all of these situations, they are simple solutions. Dramatic renditions of historical events should include explicit statements of what is and is not historically accurate. Fictional narratives should be published as fiction even if such honesty reduces their status as potential best sellers. In these respects, filmmakers, publishers, and editors all share a responsibility with writers.
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Tense and very gripping war drama
andrew-race13 October 2007
I thought the film was excellent on a number of grounds; the acting by the main players was uniformly good,I suppose one could carp about the main Nazi in that it was the traditional mixture of ' jolly fine fellow when out of uniform and with blonde wife and children but nightmare when faced with the Untermenschen in the camp'. The main actor was unknown to me and something of an anti-hero but the gradual emergence of his positive sides was well done.The concentration on life in the special part of the camp where only the sounds of shouts and gunshots penetrate was very well portrayed and the entire film gripped me from start to finish. I suppose there were no amazing revelations apart from the basis of the story but that was more than enough and I recommend it highly
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You can almost smell the ink
PipAndSqueak22 October 2007
The power in this film is that the action and dialogue is understated. We're not subjected to the full visual horrors of life in the concentration camps yet we feel what it was like nevertheless. The main characters' problem in reconciling the differences between being incarcerated in a 'normal' gaol along with 'normal' criminals and their 'code of conduct' - and the imprisonment and abuse of 'normal' citizens is an ever present theme that is conveyed with complete mastery by the script writer, actors and director. An incredible film of enduring merit. The gaunt features of the actors seemed tailor made for this instructive entertainment.
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How they didn't win the war
stensson26 January 2008
This is about the Nazis, trying to produce false pounds and dollars in the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. The aim is to destroy the British and American economies. For this purpose, they use Jewish experts, who have their privileges, like clean sheets, classical music, showers and the possibility of not being murdered.

It could have been just another Nazi movie, but many ethic questions are raised. What is treason and can you possibly survive without it? The drama between the Hauptsturmführer and the main character, Sally, is described in an interesting way, not at least because of the brilliant acting from Karl Marcovics.

Being in concentration camp, are there any more questions than surviving the next day? Obviously there were.
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A Brand New Classic
Shilpot714 October 2007
I don't go to the cinema much these days. Even sitting through the previews before I saw this I was beyond bored, even though Meryl Streep was in two of them, even she's in boring rubbish these days.

But, 'The Counterfeiters' is classy stuff. The Austrians (as well as The Germans) are excellent at making period films (masters at detail) & when they handle the subject of The Holocaust, the few things I've seen, have been superb.

Everyone's good in this. The lead is hypnotic.

If the subject of The Holocaust interests you, don't hesitate seeing this. It's a very good film indeed. It's nice to see something brand new that you can confidently call a classic.
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The Counterfeiter
Raj Doctor4 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After reading the reviews on IMDb I decided to go to see the movie.

This is a 1936 true story about a counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) who after stints in counterfeiting German currency before World War II is arrested and made prisoner in the concentration camp, where he observes the bloody, uneasy tortures and humiliations of fellow prisoners; until he finds a way to showcase his talent to step outside the prison to draw portraits and pictures of German Commanders and Officers. He is soon promoted by Germans to a position of counterfeiting the dollars in the famous Project Bernhard. The trials and tribulations of Salomon's time in the prison are alarming and sad to watch. The movie ends by showing Salomon as a free man, who lots of counterfeit money that he recklessly spends in casinos and poker games. For him – after living a life in concentration camp he knows what value the money has! The movie solely belongs to Karl Markovics, who has acted magnificently as the counterfeiter. He adds his own style of projecting range of traumatic emotions and thoughts by just a twitch of his eye or lips. Fantastic performance! There are usual characters in the movie that support the protagonist – the fellow prisoners, the brutal officer, the paternal figure leader of prisoners, a prisoner doctor, etc.

The Austrian Director Stephan Ruzowitzky maintains a tight narration very close to the script he has written. He also creates the brutal Nazi concentration camp feel – the clichéd Nazi characters and starved prisoners.

Some scenes are too stark and hard hitting that move your heart and make you cry.

My only complain (but a minor one) is the hand held camera used that sometimes distracts us from the serious gravity of steady scene.

On the whole a good movie.

(Stars 7 out of 10)
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The moral dilemma of helping madmen
Chris Knipp24 November 2007
The story of Die Fälscher had to be told because it is a unique one that reveals both an extraordinary Jeweish experience under the Nazis, that of the arch-counterfeiter and surviver Salomon Sorowitsch (or "Sallie," Karl Markovics), and another level of Third Reich insanity, their idea, or somebody's, of flooding the market with fake pounds sterling and American dollars and thus somehow bringing down the Allies through economic sabotage, late in the game.

On the other hand when one compares this film with something with the grandeur of sweeping Holocaust films like Spielberg's Schindler's List and Polanski's The Pianist, or the poetry of Lajos Koltai's Fateless (Sorstalanság), Ruzowitzsky's film seems somehow pinched and narrow-minded. It's a good story and a tense one but it dos not sing and it will not change your life.

One reason is that the Russian-born Sallie--his story framed by inconclusive later episodes of his gambling after the war-- is such an unappealing figure. He is an ugly little hard-faced man, expressionless at key moments, and extremely difficult to care about. And nobody cares about him. When he gets syphoned off with some others from the direct path to concentration camp death at Mauthausen to work on the Nazi's mad secret project , he is the key to its success. There are bankers, printers, graphic designers, lithographers ; not evidently any other counterfeiters at all, but we take it on faith that he is an ace at the trade, worthy to head up any team aimed at creating banknotes foolproof enough to survive repeated scrutiny in massive quantities. The other men on the team bow to him, because he alone can maintain quality control and make the project a success. But do they want to make it a success? Herein lies the obvious dilemma. For Sorowitsch, survival is the priority. At the opposite extreme, Adolf Burger (August Diehl), a collotype specialist whose printing experience was for leftist political purposes, sabotaging the project is the only real option.

All we know is that SS Chief Inspector Herzog (David Striesow) supervises this business; and it was he who arrested Sorowitsch in the first place. Sorowitsch has managed to gain favor in the camp by putting himself forward as a gifted sketch artist who does portraits of officers families. Apparently this has gone on for years before the counterfeiting scheme began. The screenplay is a bit vague about the background of this effort, who approved it, who masterminded it; obviously it is essential to the welfare of Herzog. But as the Nazis' situation becomes increasingly desperate and Berger's efforts to block the making of a perfect dollar keep succeeding, Herzog himself is in trouble.

There are other important characters that give the story life. The sweet young Russian boy Kolya (Sebastian Urzendowsky) is a purist, living only for his individual style and his love of the classic Russian modernists. Unfortunately he has tuberculosis, and no one can save him, not the resident doctor, Klinger (August Zirner), nor Sallie with his bargaining power over the increasingly desperate Herzog.

All this definitely holds your attention in its rather terrible grip. The duel between Sallie and the idealistic Burger achieves a tormenting level of moral complexity. Sallie is selfish, but in saving himself he is saving the whole team; in wanting to become a martyr Burger is volunteering the others for martyrdom without their permission. in between there are drones and bankers who simply want to do a job and if possible somehow also stay alive. Outside the counterfeiting team's little compound where the beds have nice linen terrible things happen, and sometimes the terror penetrates in to them too.

The most powerful sequence is at war's end when the "real" concentration camp prisoners, dirty, bleeding, and skeletal, creep into the money makers barracks with guns, unable to believe they are prisoners. This sets the experience in the context of nightmare horror and grasps a minute of the awesome poetry of Fateless' final moments, when the fifteen-year-old György Köves wanders into Budapest and takes a tram wearing his prison stripes. Otherwise, good acting and a compelling story still aren't enough to put this in the first rank of films of this genre.
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Notes From The Underground
writers_reign14 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This has the advantage of being a true story which falls into the sub-heading of Incredible Stories Of World War Two. In this case an ambitious and quasi 'good' German officer prevails upon a master forger he had arrested in the late thirties to oversee a master-plan to flood the market with initially English sterling and ultimately US dollars which will almost certainly win the war for Germany. Despite its low-key approach that verges on the laconic and punctuated by a minimum of violence, torture, etc, the film holds the attention as a riveting account of life in a concentration camp viewed from a different perspective than usual inasmuch as Solly and his team of professional printers, artists, etc, enjoy a privileged lifestyle in what amounts to a sub-section of the camp, so much so that at the end of the war the inmates who assume control fail to recognize them as fellow prisoners and almost kill them. This is yet another terrific film from the new school of German filmmakers and one fit to take its place beside The Lives Of Others, Downfall, Bella Martha, Goodbye, Lenin and the like. Definitely a must-see.
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A day is a day…The Counterfeiters
jaredmobarak19 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It is very interesting how it seems that every film about the Holocaust becomes a modern classic. The Counterfeiters is the latest attempt to breathe life into the subject by showing a true tale of how the Nazis bankrolled the end of the war with fake currency. The story itself is very intriguing and worth a history lesson, but as far as a film, what we really are given is one more concentration camp experience. There are the Nazis inflicting brutality on the Jewish prisoners, the token general assuaging his guilt by helping those he can for personal gain, the prisoners wanting to create a revolt, and those that just want to survive. While the pretense of why everyone has been brought together is new and refreshing, the total package is what we have seen over and over again.

Even the gimmick of showing us our lead post-war at the start in order for him to remember the hardships that came before is a bit tired. Would him taking the fake money he made to Monte Carlo after the war scenes have been any different than him going there first, us seeing him make it, and then cutting back? Not really. What is intriguing is the comparison between Sally Sorowitsch pre-incarceration and him in the camp. A scoundrel, as one character says, in his bar before the war, Sally is a cocky criminal and womanizer doing what he can to stay in affluence while also honing his craft to crack the American dollar. Once he is captured and able to con his way into a somewhat safe status among the Jewish prisoners, we see his survival instincts take over. A selfish man before, a selfish man he stays, doing all he can to survive the war, painting and creating portraiture for the Nazis and their cause. The first sign of life we see is his compassion for a fellow captive on his final transfer. A Russian art student like he once was, they shared the same school and professor there, Sally gives up his soup and finally shows the solidarity we would expect in that situation. You see, amongst criminals, it seems, there is a code of honor to not give up one's mates. Every jail is the same, he says, you just have to know the angles and the plays…Sally is a professional at both.

The relationship between this "artist" and his captor Herzog is a very interesting one. Being the man who arrested Sally before the war, Herzog not only got promoted for it, but also decides to enlist him to help his cause in the camp that he has started to control. They need each other to survive and that is one of the things that I love about WWII. These Germans are just as trapped in Hitler's regime as the Jews are, (figuratively, yes I know the Jew's had it much worst). Everyone is expendable and must do their job to survive as a high official can even be shot by nothing more than a whim by his superior. I believe one of the best scenes here is Sally at Herzog's house, meeting his wife and children and their utter inability to comprehend what is happening around them outside their mansion's bubble.

Along with those two, the rapport with Sally and Adolf Burger is fantastic as well. These two are kindred souls yet with one main difference. While Sorowitsch looks for his survival and that of those he can see, Burger wants life for his people and the country being persecuted whether he is alive to see it or not. Their moral fortitude is the same, however, and while they may disagree they will never risk the other in order to do what they believe is right. Either way, both men are key components in the fall of Germany, doing exactly what's needed to be done at the exact right time, even though they could have never known it. Sally's ability to get the forgeries made gave them the time for Burger to stall the manufacturing of American currency just long enough for the army to go bankrupt. It's good to see that Burger, the man who's book the film is based on, decided to not center the tale on himself, only allowing one instance at the end to give himself the credit of being a hero. Instead he allows Sorowitsch to take the stage, showing his leadership and unflappable calmness when confronted with the most dangerous consequences.

When a movie like this relies mostly on the reactions of men at the deaths of their friends, you can't usually say much because it's either believable or not. What makes this stand out, in that regard, is the fact that these men are so far gone that their emotions have been dulled. August Diehl, as Burger, is the best example of this, showing the devastation of finding out what happened to his wife without the capacity to cry. Devid Striesow is great too as Herzog, always being the good businessman, using tough love while also utilizing a reward system to keep morale as high as possible. The way he plays those around him is effective. As our lead Sally, Karl Markovics is perfect. Stoic and always thinking, he portrays the man orchestrating everyone's survival with little movement. His blank stare is as emotive as anything else in the film, especially when he flinches at gunshots that he knows have hit their targets. By not showing emotion, he exudes his feelings even more. Mention should also be made for Sebastian Urzendowsky as Kolya, the young art student that Sally takes under his wing. A broken man, he is the most fragile and animated, infusing some much-needed life into an otherwise retold version of the same story we've seen before.
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Idealism and Survival
Claudio Carvalho4 April 2010
In 1936, the greatest forger in Germany, the Jewish Russian Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), is arrested by the agent Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow) and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp. Years later, he is transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp to work with a group of professionals counterfeiting sterling pounds under the command of Herzog in the Operation Bernhard. When the group is ordered to produce American dollars, the idealistic Adolf Burger (August Diehl) sabotages the work of Sally and his team.

"Die Fälscher" is based on a true story of a group of Jews that are forced to counterfeit currency to destabilize the economy of England and North America in World War II. The realistic plot discloses a fight between the idealism of Burger and the intention of surviving the war of the group of Jews led by Sally in excellent performances. The result is another great and powerful German film that leaves an open question: what could you do or how far would you go to survive? My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Os Falsários" ("The Forgers")
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One of the greatest Holocaust films
Warning: Spoilers
I went to a special preview screening of this movie last night in London. There were little counterfeit £5 notes left on all the seat in the cinema which was a nice publicity touch. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, in fact I definitely say it's one of the best Holocaust films - easily up there with Schindler's List, and Life Is Beautiful. The story is gripping and fascinating, how this group of men survived the war. The performances by Karl Markovics, August Diehl and Devid Striesow were very good indeed. I highly recommend this to everyone. Afterwards I read an interview with the director. *small spoiler* He said the scene where the prisoners are playing ping-pong, while outside their section other, less fortunate, prisoners are being brutalized and murdered could be an analogy for the kind of world we live in today. We get on with our rather material and sheltered lives, while in other, less fortunate countries, people are brutalised and murdered (e.g. Darfur). Amazing, made me really think about things. *end of small spoiler* If you want to see a film that will force you to think, keep you gripped, and leave you with a well of emotions, this is for you.
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Seeing this created my own moral dilemma
intelearts30 December 2007
I came away with a moral dilemma of my own: though "The Counterfeiters" is excellent in places in others it is not.

The true story of Operation Bernhard and the printing of millions of pounds is a fascinating story. The direction, acting, and script are excellent. But my problem was one that for me was a real shock: I was not as moved by the film as I had hoped or wanted to be.

Dealing with the most singular piece of evil devised by man - genocide, especially in the concentration camps is never an easy subject, and perhaps the fact that it is not overplayed is a bonus - however, I came away admiring the film and its performances but left curiously unmoved by the overall tone of the piece.

Perhaps that's the point of the moral dichotomy (Make money, help the Nazis, don't make money, lose your lives but shorten the war) that is does not scream but rather affects us quietly.

Overall, definitely watchable. But misses greatness.
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Triumph of the Human Spirit?
Redcitykev30 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is film has proved to be the big International hit of the year so far, and on watching it it is easy to see why.

The basic narrative of the film is that of one of the world's greatest counterfeiters, who just happens to be Jewish in Nazi Germany, gets arrested, manages to survive one concentration camp, then gets sent to another camp where he is used to help produce counterfeit money, pounds Stirling and dollars, which the Nazis want to use to undermine the economies of their enemies. The fact that he survives is no big secret due to the way the film is structured, with topping and tailing scenes at Monte Carlo which occur after the war.

Within this narrative, which is based on a true story, arises the eternal question of whether the prisoners survive because of the triumph of the Human Spirit, idealism - ie one certain camp member who does his best to sabotage the operation, is he a hero or a person doing his selfish best to survive? - or just plain determinism not to allow the Nazis to get the better of them? The film offers no easy answers to these questions, and it is up to us, the viewer, to make our own minds up. This also applies to just why the Nazis want such huge sums of money, is it to undermine the economies as we are told, or, as is also implied, to actually fund their war effort? As one would expect from a film set largely in a concentration camp there some disturbing images and moving moments - the moment when the real passports are delivered, or a scene late on when a prisoner, not one of those working on the counterfeit plan, is seen wondering about like a zombie, all Human feeling and responses removed from his body and mind. Such scenes as these are handled with dignity and care, and the film treads a careful line between telling a all-too-human story to which all right minded people can respond, and being voyeuristic. Where the film derives its real power is by keeping the film personal. This is another film, like 'The Kite Runner', which deals with huge political issues in such a way as to relate them to just a handful of main characters, allowing the viewer to make up their minds about the wider political issues being dealt with.

Yes there are faults, some of the clichés, especially of the German guards, (ie "good cop, bad cop" etc), and some of the hand-held camera work takes a little getting used to, but these are worth overlooking in order to see a film which has a heart and soul, and something important to say about the Human Condition.
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The more wars change...
Cliff Hanley21 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Just as the Americans decided which of the Nazies were 'good' after the war (Verner von Braun etc), the Nazies themselves took a pragmatic view of the Jews. A 144-strong team of artists, forgers and printers was assembled to manufacture first pounds then dollars, the plan being to undermine the enemy economies. The counterfeiters were spared the worst of the privations in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, although they inevitably struggled with their consciences as they helped the German war effort within hearing of the cries of their fellows being tortured and shot. It's the same sub-theme as with 'Bridge Over The River Kwai', but a good deal more visceral. It was difficult to stifle a laugh when, after the team has done its best in reproducing the Bank of England's finest, their reward is unveiled, in the sordid, muddy, blood spattered surrounds of the camp…a ping-pong table! Stefan Ruzowitzky based his film on 'The Devil's Workshop', the book by Adolf Burger, one of the three surviving members of the team. Burger appears as a lad in the film although it is another prisoner, a colourful forger and playboy, Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch, who is the central figure. One telling scene, before his arrest, has a good-time girl backing off, twisting her face in an ugly scowl when she hears his Jewish name.

The entire story is shot in washed-out colour; starting after it's all over and flashing back to explain how Sally found himself here on this beach. The 'past' is even closer to sepia, and grainy with it - appropriate as a recreation of the contrast in now/then, warm/cold, safe/insecure.

One of the strongest things about the drama is its acceptance that the Germans, the 'Nazis', would have been under pressure to close ranks. Some took considerable pleasure in making life intolerable for others and others were by default with their fellow soldiers. That is a timeless situation (as is the concentration camp),and could apply to all uniformed policing organisations.

Just one carp about the sub-titling: Sally says to one other forger, 'I saved all our butts by making pounds.' - This, to some of us, is about collecting cigarette ends. It was very kind of the director to give us a happy ending ( and the company that prints Jack Vettriano's posters will be even happier) although despite Sorowitsch's final promise of riches and comfort to his new lady, we can be sure that he would never, in his mind, have really left the camp.
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Survival of the fittest
jotix1002 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
As the film opens, we are taken to watch Solomon Sorowitsch, alias Sally, the main character now enjoying the life of leisure in a European casino in the company of an attractive woman. The time of the action is right after WWII. That image is shattered by asking us to examine the same character in 1936. He is a counterfeiter, perhaps the best in the business. Sally makes a good living helping the people wanting to flee Germany with passports that show his ability to produce flawless documents that will not arise the border guards' suspicion.

Alas, Solomon's freedom comes to an abrupt end when he lands in an interment camp because as a Jew, he cannot escape what the Nazi Germans have decided for a race they want to erase from the face of the earth. Sally, fares better when a superior German officer who knows about him takes him to forge English pounds and US dollars in order to flood the currency in world markets, rendering their legal tender obsolete, thus attaining complete domination.

"The Counterfeiters", created and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, presents an aspect of that sad time of history. In it, we are taken to observe people like Salomon, who has to go along with his captors in order to survive the horrors of those camps. As such, Solomon fares much better than some of his fellow Jews that had nothing to offer in exchange to the corrupt captors.

One of the main reasons for watching the film is the amazing work by Karl Markowics, who as the forger runs away with the film. Devid Striesow is seen as Herzog, the cynic Nazi officer. August Diehl also contributes to the total success of the movie.

"The Counterfeiters" show us the horrors of the war in a different context by admitting to what extent human beings stooped in order to survive the horrors of that conflict.
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Well made, but should it have been made
robert-temple-127 March 2008
Stefan Ruzowitzky and his cast have done an excellent job of making a film which there was no point in making, in my opinion. How many hundreds of times have we seen the same Nazi concentration camp guards torturing and killing the inmates? OK, so it is convincing and violent, and we really experience the horror of it all. But what is new about this one? Although it portrays the counterfeiting operation of the Nazis carried out by their captive Jews, this has been much better covered in television documentaries, where the fate of all the money being dumped in the lake, for instance, is explained (missing from this dramatization). I do not see the rationale behind the production. The lead counterfeiter does not do anything heroic in this film, and the delays in the operation are caused instead by another inmate, with whom he is at odds. So the dramatic premises are also flawed by this, as we have a lead character who looks convincingly grim without accomplishing anything other than compliance. His only brave act is to insist on some medicine for an inmate suffering from TB. Otherwise, there is no real justification for his being the lead apart from his being a master counterfeiter. The story would have been better to be restructured with the younger man as the hero, to give it some dramatic point. The project was misconceived. Just because the Austrians have now proved that they can make a movie well does not mean that they have proved that they can make a movie which is worth making well. The end of the film rings as false as the counterfeit money, and seems to me to have been a counterfeit emotion of simulated despair, taking refuge in a convenient act of nihilism which is meant to have profundity but instead merely has pointlessness. This film is a pretence at concern, not an expression of it. In other words, it is 'just a movie', and that is a damning category for a film dealing with such an emotive subject.
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Harrowing yet Mesmerizing Survivor's Tale
J_Trex30 April 2008
It was clear from the first few minutes of the film that the protagonist (Solly) survived his death camp experience. The scene is the immediate aftermath of WWII and Solly checks into a casino hotel in Monte Carlo, along with a suitcase of US Currency. After a brief encounter with a woman he picked up in the casino, the scene flashes back to pre WWII in Berlin, where Solly is a successful counterfeiter, eagerly sought after for his skills in forging identity documents for Jews seeking to flee Nazi Germany.

Solly is also Jewish, but feels he is clever enough to elude the coming storm. Eventually he is betrayed by a rival and ends up in a concentration camp. However, his counterfeiting skills help him escape the gas chambers. The Nazis plan is to undermine US & British currency through a massive counterfeiting project & Solly (among other fellow Jewish concentration camp inmates) is recruited to lead the effort.

The moral dilemma of the Jewish prisoner's ability to survive by helping the murderers of their fellow Jews weighs heavily with Solly and his associates. The movie does an excellent job of portraying the dynamics of the issue, from the different perspectives, namely the prisoners who want to survive by actively participating in the counterfeiting project, and those who would rather die by sabotaging it.

As the leader of the counterfeiters, Solly needs to walk a fine line between following his own instincts to survive, and respecting the imperatives of those who want to sabotage the project, ensuring the death of the entire group.

There are many films that touch on the narrative of the holocaust victim compromising one's own moral outlook in order to survive. "The Pianist" & "Fateless" are two recent critically acclaimed films that explored this territory. I would rate "The Counterfeiter" superior to both of these excellent films.

This was an outstanding film, and I recommend it highly.
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A fine piece of story-telling and cinematic artistry.
invinoveritas120 April 2008
The plot is shown previously, but this film, based on a true story as told in the book by Adolph Burger, takes place in Nazi Germany during World War II, is extremely well done. The acting is good by the entire cast, but especially by Karl Markovics playing the lead, Saloman Sorowitsch, Note also excellent casting, and cinematography, direction, and editing. It is tight but the running time seems longer than it actually is, perhaps because of the gut-wrenching suspense of the plot. This film has won many awards in Europe and won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2008. Some films show a postlude telling more about the actual characters represented in the film - I wish that was the case here.
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An engaging thriller
DarthVoorhees12 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Counterfeiters is an interesting film. I admire it for it's subject material, too many films about the Holocaust depict the situation as hopeless but these Jews are survivors who change during their captivity. The Nazi regime plans to conduct financial warfare against the allies in the last days of the war, ironically they turn to the help of Jews who have expertise in each of the areas needed to oversee the production of the false money. The leader is master counterfeiter 'Sally' Sorowitsch, who is able to give the Nazis the results they want and in return he lives a life that many prisoners would envy. The proposal proposes a moral dilemma for the Jews, they live by counterfeiting the money but they have to go on living with the fact that they are helping the Nazis kill their chance of freedom. This separates them and one of the counterfeiters named Adolf Burger can't live with the fact that he is financing the Nazis.

Like the Polanski film The Pianist, this is a story of survival. These men want to live and they know that tomorrows aren't a guaranteed luxury. I imagine they all feel as if they are selling their souls but they want to survive. Adolf Burger is probably the most correct and noble but I see where the other characters are coming from, it's hard to be noble when death is everywhere. The Counterfeiters is unlike any other Holocaust film, we see some disturbing scenes but much of the terror is implied. We see letters and remnants of Auschwitz in these men and they are in the middle of a hellish concentration camp themselves. They get treated well by their Nazi commander Herzog when they deliver what he wants. He remarks that his success is due to the fact that he doesn't treat people like dirt but he treats dirt like people. In one of the most suspenseful scenes he takes the Jews out of bed for an announcement, he gives them a ping pong table to congratulate them on successfully counterfeiting the pound, they are aghast because they feared Herzog was rounding them up to gas them. Many of the Jews think it is easier to ignore than to acknowledge. Burger when he challenges them on this horrible presumption. The Counterfeiters deals with questions and themes that are interesting and intriguing It asks the right questions and brings up the right points. The prisoners are put in a position I doubt anyone would know how to be in.

Karl Markovics is amazing in the title role, I think he should have been considered for a Best Actor nomination at our American Academy Awards.

The Counterfeiters isn't a grand epic but it doesn't need to be. It is an effective thriller which brings the viewer in.
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A solid film
tomas_ernst23 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film is quality and educational too, given that it is based on a true story. Amazing tale of endurance, intelligence and sacrifice during one of the darkest periods in recent history. I am also a big fan of films that take the 'bookend' approach; in this film it works well. A lot of power in the subtle silences of this film; the look between the Protagonist and the French woman in the beginning and when the two different groups of Jewish holocaust survivors meet each other; the suspicion that follows.

A few small critiques of the film. I am not sure that we had enough information in order for the audience to identify with the Protagonist; he starts out as a cocky criminal driven by the acquisition of more and more money. He is obviously gifted and these gifts are put towards criminal activities until capture. Fully understand the film follows his slow and steady transformation from a person motivated by money and self-indulgences. Perhaps to expand on his amazing ability to adapt to such a horrific environment and thus to further reveal his character; I would have liked to see more scenes/action showing him winning favour with the German guards. The early, inter-war year sequences were rushed.

Secondly, there was a scene where the protagonist was assigned to clean the Latrines. As he is scrubbing away, the German guard with an Axe to grind walks in and proceeds to urinate on him. Awful and revolting, and it provokes a controlled but nonetheless angry reaction. My issue with this scene is that it was too obvious; we could see it coming for miles. For a film that chose to take a more subtle approach than say other films about the horrors of WW II German concentration camps, this scene is too 'over the top' when looking at the overall style of the film.

Finally, I wasn't sure what to make of the scene where our Protagonist confronts the Head of the Concentration camp for gifted Jewish workers; the man who originally captured our Protagonist. If memory serves the Protagonist confronts the Warden and confirms the Warden is a desperate crook, stealing to prepare a tidy life post WWII. The confrontation here is a battle between a gun and a sharp object. Is this part of the film true to history; did this confrontation occur? If so, did the prisoner overpower his captor with raw emotion and anger, despite coming up against a revolver? I would be interested in other's thoughts on this. For me, it was difficult to believe that such an incident could occur.

On the other hand, I can see how it could be perceived the Warden was a man driven only by advancement, at whatever the cost of life. Thus he is unable to do his own dirty work, preferring to delegate the delivery of punishment and executions. Therefore, when he is confronted by a powerful personality acting on raw emotion, he succumbs even with a superior weapon in hand...

Very good film; glad it took the Oscar.
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Historic Film
Ozzy200017 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A tragic story about a Jew Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch who is arrested and put into slave labour by the Nazi's in 1936 along with other Jews for their brilliant skills in counterfeiting currency. The operation lasts nine years to 1945 when the allies liberate the concentration camps. The counterfeiting operation is called Operation Bernhard and is a true account of the Nazi success in counterfeiting the English pound and then the American dollar but only when it was too late. Even though the Jewish counterfeiters enjoy infinitely better conditions than other Jews in the Holocaust tragedy they are treated with brutality and suffer atrocities none the less.

This film is more a Docu-Drama than a film for entertainment although I found it strange that people in the audience were having big belly laughs at the inappropriate moments of the film as if there were any anyway but it was an Australian audience and you would expect it.

These films about the Holocaust will survive well into the future as they encapsulate the tragic events of the most tragic and organised brutal extermination in Human History.

These sort of films do not attract much of an audience in Australia which is a pity because every one should know how much the Jews suffered during the Holocaust. There is only a small ever diminishing Jewish community in Australia and only a tiny fraction of them are connected directly to the Holocaust at this point of history. So its becoming more likely that future Generations of Australians will know even less about the Holocaust.

Films like this will enlighten future generations in Europe, The USA and some other countries for years to come.

Brilliant acting and directing and will soon be out on DVD.
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