Genre - War, Drama, Thriller
The Counterfeiters (Die Falscher) is the Oscar winning German movie about the largest counterfeiting operation in the history. Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, The Counterfeiters won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Academy Awards. An adaptation of Adolf Burger's fact-based book of memoirs, 'The Devil's Workshop, it was also nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear Award at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival.
The Counterfeiters stars Karl Marcovics as the jailed Jewish artist-cum-Counterfeiter Saloman Sorowitsch ('Sally') whose philosophy is: "Why earn money by making art? Earning money by making money is much easier.”. Imprisoned as a criminal, Sally is forced into joining Operation Bernhard to be run at a concentration camp during World War II that employed Jewish printers, typists, bankers and forgers from the concentration camps. Operation Bernhard was a ultra-secretive Nazi plan to destabilize the economy of Great Britain by flooding it with massive volumes of forged Bank of England bank notes. As per the movie, they also planned to forge the US Dollar.
The Counterfeiters starts with a post World War II scene of Salomon Sorowitsch checking into a plush hotel in Monte Carlo. At the hotel, as he gets down to love making with a beautiful French women, she discovers tattooed numerals on his forearm, signifying him to be a former prisoner and survivor of Nazi Concentration camps. We are then taken back to 1936 that shows Sally as a successful counterfeiter dealing with passports and other legal documents, intentionally oblivious to the increasing persecution of his community. His luck runs outs when he's arrested on counterfeiting charges and taken to a hard-labor camp, and then interned by SS for Operation Bernhard, located within a concentration. camp. Though still considered as 'inferior' and treated as 'prisoners' by the SS guards, the group of Jewish counterfeiters are accorded luxuries like cushioned beds, decent food and a 'ping-pong' table, but above all the hope of survival.
Unlike other holocaust movies, the movie doesn't really delve too much on the hardships faced by the Jewish prisoners or the brutality and inhumane treatment doled out to them, but rather chooses to deal with individuals, their moral conflicts, and clash of ideologies dictated by self-preservation. These aspects allows the movie to present a fresh new perspective. Karl Marcovics gives a masterful performance as Saloman Sorowitsch ('Sally'), a pragmatic anti-hero who believes in the ideal of 'adapt or die'. The rest of the cast do a brilliant job as well.
The Counterfeiters is an intriguing thriller and a subtle-yet-detailed and interesting character study of individuals caught in desperate situations. Though it's merits for winning an Oscar was a hotly debatable topic, it nevertheless is one of the finest movies based on WWII to have come out in recent years.