“The Counterfeiters” – Susan Granger reviews
Winner of the Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award, this is a true W.W.II drama that poses a provocative moral dilemma about Jewish collaboration with the Nazis.
Salomon Sally Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a Russian Jew who survived the Holocaust. Carrying a satchel bursting with bank notes, hes gambling recklessly in the casino in Monte Carlo. A flashback to 1936 reveals him as a master forger, specializing in documents of ancestry and passports.
When hes arrested by Inspector Friedrich Herzog (David Streisow) in Berlin, hes dispatched to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he curries favor with his captors with his graphic art. But when opportunistic Herzog becomes an SS officer at Sachsenhausen, he sends for Sully to join other papermakers, photographers and copper engravers in Operation Bernhard, a plan to undermine the economies of the United States and Great Britain with a flood of counterfeit currency. Indeed, from 1942 to 1945, these privileged prisoners were housed separately, fed better and kept relatively healthy and as a reward for successfully counterfeiting 134 million English pounds, they got a ping-pong table. Meanwhile, others are suffering.
Austrian writer/director Stefan Ruzowitsky delves into the prisoners various reactions to collusion like Adolf Burger (August Diehl), an idealistic printer who wants to sabotage the operation. Burger believes that helping the Nazis is betraying the Jews.
Id rather be gassed tomorrow than be shot for nothing today, Sally argues, reasoning, A days a day.
What makes this movie worthwhile is its depiction of this struggle of conscience. What would you do in such a situation? Would you sacrifice another life to extend your own?
In German with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Counterfeiters is a compelling 9, chronicling the currency of desperation.