The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher) Review
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Berlin, 1936: Talented artist Salomon “Sally” Sorowitch (Karl Markovics) makes his living by forging documents and currency. Though he excels in his craft, he’s eventually arrested and sent to a labor camp. As the Nazis rise to full power, Sorowitch, a Russian Jew, is shipped off to a concentration camp.

The policeman who arrested him, Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow), has made a name for himself by capturing Sorowitch—and he’s been promoted to Superintendent by the Nazi party. He realizes that Sally can be an asset to the Nazis in a counterfeiting scheme, so he arranges for Sally to be transferred to Sachsenhausen, along with other Jewish prisoners who have useful skills in the same area.

The purpose of the operation is to destroy the British economy—and eventually that of the United States—by pumping in counterfeit currency. Sally realizes that, once he’s of no use to the Germans, he’ll be executed like the other Jews; however, his survival instinct keeps him working. The prisoners in the camp continue to pump out currency just to survive another day—except for Adolph Burger (August Diehl), who sabotages their efforts. A young communist, Burger believes that the cause against the Third Reich is greater than that of personal survival. And Sorowitch, who is essential to the entire operation, is torn between protecting Burger and keeping himself and the others alive.

The Counterfeiters (or Die Fälscher in its native German)—this year’s winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film—is the true story of Operation Bernhard, the largest counterfeiting operation in history. Austrian director/writer Stephan Ruzowitzky shoots the scenes persuasively, with sparing use of dull color. The acting is convincing and superb, allowing you to examine these characters with all of their moral defects. Though the film is shot from Sally’s perspective, you don’t even care for him in the beginning. After all, he’s a con artist. However, as the movie progresses, you learn to respect and understand him. In fact, this film takes you into the souls of the prisoners, and it poses a dilemma: is it moral to prolong one’s life and the lives of others at any cost, or should one fight against evil, no matter what the outcome? Or is there maybe a noble stance in between? What makes this movie so significant, however, is that it forces the audience to ask the same questions—and it proves that the answers are not all that clear-cut.

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