Winner of the Academy AwardŽ for Best Foreign Language Film, The Counterfeiters tells the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a swindler who made a name for himself as Berlin's "King of the Counterfeiters." ... more »However, his life of women and easy money is cut short when he's arrested and placed in a Nazi concentration camp. With the German army on the verge of bankruptcy, Sorowitsch makes a sobering deal with his captors: in exchange for a comfortable bed, good food and fair treatment, Sorowitsch, along with the other hand-picked specialists, must counterfeit bank notes to fund the Nazi War effort. If he does as they say, he lives another day. If he rebels, he faces the same fate as the rest of the camp's prisoners. But if he lives, will he be able to live with himself?« less
Deborah D. (pmdeborah) from YORK, PA Reviewed on 7/23/2010...
This was a hard movie to watch because of what it was about and morals. Should a person do anything to survive even if it means thousands of others dieing? It was worth watching just to get you to think about that.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Survival of the Shrewdest
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters) deserves its Oscar as the Best Foreign Film of 2007. Based on a true story and singed with horrifying details of the Nazi treatment of 'detainees' (primarily Jews) during WW II, the inner story of this film is one of resilience and survival against near impossible odds and how one man turned his criminal gifts into a system so impressive that he served as a 'provider' of funds to the financially depleted Third Reich war effort. The story is in itself fascinating enough to hold our interest for the duration of the film, but it is the incredibly ingenious and wily character of Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch that burns a space in our minds of how one man survived the concentration camps and in his own way helped fellow Jews to likewise survive the Holocaust.
Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a brilliant counterfeiter, a Russian Jew so gifted in his ability to forge documents such as passports that he is able to live the 'good life' - money, women, gambling, etc. - until he is arrested by the Nazis and placed in a detention camp Sachsenhausen north of Berlin. His facile mind sees his possible extermination and leads him to make a deal with the Nazis to spare his life (and the lives of his elected doomed accomplices) in return for making counterfeit money (British pounds) so desperately needed to fill the coffers of the dwindling Nazi resources. He and his confreres are afforded comfortable living space, good foods, and other amenities in a special sector of the concentration camp, a place where they can spend their time turning out volumes of money for the Nazis. In this way many of these 'selected' men manage to stay alive until the war is over, but the 'hero' character of Sally Sorowitsch remains an enigma of sorts: his cunning ideas are basically self centered and his focus remains on his own survival and ultimate gratification of yet another successful counterfeit business. In other words, his story leaves a feeling of uneasiness with the viewer - is this a survivor to admire or is this a 'player' whose sense of compassion is marred by his own selfish goals? The viewer is left to decide.
Though Karl Markovics is very strong in the leading role, the supporting cast of some of Germany's finest actors brings a depth of humanity and perception to the major issue the film addresses - both death and survival in the onerous concentration camps of the Nazis. Director/screenwriter Stefan Ruzowitzky deserves kudos for the manner in which he shows both sides of the seminal situation. His cinematographer Benedict Neuenfels manages to capture the lurid light of the confined men and makes the intolerable almost tolerable to watch: the haunting musical score by Marius Ruhland completes the atmosphere. This is a powerful movie on every level, but it is a very disturbing film in many ways. It will make the viewer think - and that is most definitely a strong point of this film. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp, August 08"
Pound for Pound
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 03/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The New Germany and Austria by extension have been in the process, these past several years, of divesting themselves of National Guilt in regards to the atrocities of World War 2: "Sophie Scholl," "Downfall" and also the superb "Lives of Others" (though set in post WWII East Berlin, it reeks of submission and totalitarianism) speak to the redemptive qualities of confession and penance. And now we have "The Counterfeiters," the story of Solomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a Russian-born Jew who spends his life forging documents thereby attaining the reputation of a master counterfeiter. Ultimately he is arrested and sent to a Camp at which he is given the assignment of forging the British Pound note for The Third Reich. This is 1945 and the disastrous German War effort is in dire need of cash to carry on its war effort. "Counterfeiters" is all about survival and to what means we, as human beings will do to comply in order to live: anything pretty much sums it up and anything pretty much is the reality of our collective desire to live despite the cicumstances. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky is walking a slippery slope here as the counterfeiting was done in the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen and the technicians involved were almost all Jews, "The Counterfeiters" raises some provocative moral dilemmas. Also, the Sorowitsch of Markovics is no paragon of honor. Instead he is a squirrelly, only thinking for himself, con man. He's happy to do what the Nazi's ask of him in order to get the perks of his "exalted position" in Sachsenhausen: clean clothes, good food, soft bedding, and weekly hot showers. "The Counterfeiters" begins with a post war sequence of Sorowitsch spending thousands of counterfeit British Pounds in Monte Carlo: gambling, grooming himself, dining, dating...basically enjoying the fruits of his labors and those of his fellow counterfeiters. Sorowitsch is one who feels that: "Only by surviving can we defeat them." "The Counterfeiters" is a difficult film to like but ultimately it speaks to something in all of us: the drive, the desperate need to survive despite the circumstances in which we might find ourselves. Sorowitsch is flawed, a nasty piece of work actually but he's intelligent, crafty and grudgingly and ultimately deserving of our respect. "
The World's Largest Counterfeiting Scheme: Compelling WWII T
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Oscar-winning (Best Foreign Language Film) "The Counterfeiters" is inspired by true events during World War II. Some of the main characters of the Austrian/German film are based on real persons and one of them Adolf Burger, a Slovak typographer, wrote a memoir "The Devil's Workshop" which became the basis of the film. Burger's book is about "Operation Bernhard," Nazi's secret plans of forging English and American currency. Against the background of one of the largest counterfeiting schemes in history, Director Stefan Ruzowitzky (best known for his medical suspense "Anatomy" starring Franka Potente) has successfully created a tense thriller with powerful moments.
The film centers on Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), forger of documents. After being arrested in pre-war Berlin, a Russian Jew Solomon Sorowitsch is sent to a concentration camp. We discover though Salomon is not a heroic figure, he is clever. He learns to survive the horrible conditions of life there by drawing portraits of Nazi officers.
But more drastic change awaits him when he is later put in charge of one secret mission conducted by Nazis code-named "Operation Bernhard" - Salomon and other inmates (mostly Jewish prisoners) are confined in an inner section at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and are ordered to forge British bank notes.
One thing is certain. They must succeed. They also know Nazi officers would not wait long. But to succeed means to prolong the war and some of the fellow counterfeiters are aware of that too. This is where Adolf Burger (brilliant August Diehl) steps in, insisting on sabotage even though the delay could mean their death.
"The Counterfeiters" is not only a gripping thriller; it also poses some questions about what we would and should do in most extreme situation. I only add that in his interview Adolf Burger said (he visited Japan in November 2007) that the episodes about the inmates playing ping pong and singing songs before the Nazi officers are both true.
Perhaps this moral dilemma of Salomon represented by Salomon and Adolf could have been explored more. Some scenes of the film are obviously the results of fictionalizing process on the side of filmmakers who wanted more dramatic moments. The film is certainly flawed, but, supported by unanimously great acting (Karl Markovics as Salomon Sorowitsch is stunning), "The Counterfeiters" is a gripping and fascinating thriller and drama."
Understated Personal Drama
Jay Young | Austin, TX USA | 05/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Counterfeiters" is a deliberately-paced, affecting personal drama about how thorny ethical dilemmas are in real life, and won a deserved Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars in 2008. The main character is Salomon Sorowitsch, a Russian Jew who is arrested for counterfeiting in 1939 and sent to a concentration camp. His artistic skill is quickly picked up, however, and he is eventually used in a counterfeiting operation known as Operation Bernhard, a plan to de-stabilize the British economy by flooding it with counterfeit currency. Since Sorowitsch is such a master at counterfeiting, he is able to pull off a perfect re-production of Bank of England notes that pass the inspection of even the highest inspectors. So the SS now turn their counterfeiting operation to the Dollar. Another inmate involved in the counterfeiting operation, Adolf Burger, realizes that they are effectively financing the Nazi war effort, and believes that a massive printing of counterfeit dollars could make a serious difference in the war. Burger begins destroying the negatives, and wants Sorowitsch to sabatoge the whole operation. This puts Sorowitsch in a dilemma- if the Nazis find out about the sabatoge, then all the counterfeiting inmates, who enjoy a comparatively privileged and comfortable life, will be sent to the death camps. If they continue with the operation, they will help the Nazis.
Which is more important- ensuring your own survival, or fighting for a just cause at the possible cost of your life? "The Counterfeiters" shows that such a dilemma is very difficult to resolve in one's day-to-day struggles, especially when great duress and oppression is present. The moral complexity of the movie is stunning. Whether the counterfeiters delaying tactics were what led to the Nazis' downfall or not, they did a very brave thing, and this movie does a great service in bringing their story to the public."
Startling, somber, disturbingly haunting and thought provoki
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 07/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2007 Austrian film won an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film of the year. I can well understand why. Startling, somber and disturbingly haunting, it is based on the true story of a Jewish criminal counterfeiter who was imprisoned by the Nazis. The film is brilliantly directed by Stefan Ruzowitz, who manages to humanize both the prisoners and the Nazis.
Karl Markovics is cast as Salomon Sorowich. We first meet him after the war, visiting an upscale Monte Carlo casino with a briefcase full of American money. There is then a flashback to 1936, when we see him as a successful counterfeiter who, for a fee, specializes in providing foreign passports for those who are trying to get out of Germany. He is arrested and sent to a concentration camp. He manages to survive in awful conditions by drawing flattering portraits of the concentration camp guards. He is so good at it that he is provided with the materials to do portraits of the guards and their families.
This privileged status in the camps comes to an end, however, when he is taken to another concentration camp where he and a select group of prisoners, which includes printers and graphic artists, are forced to produce counterfeit English pounds and American dollars for the Nazis. Here, they are given privileges unknown to other inmates. Their food is good, they sleep on beds with sheets and blankets, and their work conditions mirror those of a real print shop in the outside world. Salomon Sorowich thrives in this atmosphere. However, Aldoph Berger, played by August Diehl, another prisoner who believes in Communist ideals, accuses Sorowich of "selling his soul" and does everything in his power to sabotage the effort. Somehow, the English pound is produced, but the counterfeiting of the American dollar project lags behind. The prisoners all want to stay alive and would like to kill the Communist because no matter how luxurious their treatment, they all know they can be shot at any time. How this all plays out is stuff that high drama is made of. It kept be on the edge of my seat the whole time.
I did some research on this film which was adapted from a memoir of the Communist who, after the war, suffered periods of depression and later committed suicide. Salomon Sorowich, however, escaped to Argentina where he continued his counterfeiting lifestyle by forging works of art.
This is not a film for everyone. It is sad and disturbing. But I do highly recommend it because it is a fine film with great acting, a well-paced storyline, and an extremely thought provoking theme. "