The Counterfeiters – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

“When in doubt, always go with the Holocaust film” is a mantra when making Oscar picks, and last year’s foreign language winner followed that mantra as The Counterfeiters took home an Oscar.

Fictionalizing “Operation Bernhard,” and based off the memoir of Adolf Burger, the film follows a group of men assembled for their talents when it comes to printing and forging. Their goal is simple: produce enough British pounds and American dollars to destabilize their respective countries economies, thus financing the Nazi effort and hitting their enemies where it hurts. With a number of Jews assembled from concentration camps all over, their task is simple: work for the SS and make the fake money. The film focuses on their little-known efforts and the ethical dilemmas therein.

In particular there’s Burger (August Diehl), an idealist who views his work as demoralizing. He wishes to sabotage their efforts as a means of resistance. Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a world class forger and, unlike the others, a criminal who has a long history of breaking the law. Both struggle with the ethos of forging for the Nazis. For Burger, it’s a matter of principal. Any aide to the Nazis is wrong and losing his life is something he’s comfortable doing because of it. Sorowitsch does whatever possible to survive, rationalizing that making fake money for the Nazis is what is keeping him alive.

It makes for an interesting dilemma and a more interesting film, as it becomes a game of survival between the forgers and their Nazi guards. As they get more privileges and less chance of death then anyone else, their expectations are also heightened as well. It becomes a much more terse film as the events progress, as at this point the Nazis were on the defensive and the war was drawing nigh. The atmosphere becomes electric the longer it goes, as the odds on whether or not they will survive become bleak. While we know they will survive, because history says so, the film is so well done that we’re not sure.

The Counterfeiters is a rare gem to find and behold.

Presented in a Dolby Digital surround and a widescreen format, the film looks and sounds fantastic. It’s a bleak film, with lots of blacks and grays, but they come through markedly clear and refreshing.

The Making of The Counterfeiters is a look at the events of the film and the real life stories behind them. Recollected from the memories of counterfeiter Adolf Burger, who still teaches German students about the crimes of the Nazis at the age of 90, the piece sheds some light on the realities of the situation but comes off as an EPK more often than not.

Interviews with Ruzowitzky, Burger and Markovics are included.

Adolf Burger’s Artifacts is a piece with Burger where he discusses his experiences and shows actual things he counterfeited during this period. It’s a fascinating piece, though the audio/visual is rather weak.

Q & A with Director Stefan Ruzowitzkyis a question and answer session with Ruzowitzky after its AFI premiere. In broken English, with subtitles for those who have a difficult time understanding him, it’s an interesting piece.

The Counterfeiters is one of the rare films in 2008 that’s worth seeing.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………




Sony Pictures Classics presents The Counterfeiters. Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Written By Adolf Burger (book) and Stefan Ruzowitzky Running time: 98 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: August 5, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

Tags: