Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Counterfeiters

The Counterfeiters
Karl Markovics, David Striesow, Sebastian Urzendrowsky, Lenn Kudrjawizki and August Diehl

Rated: R for some strong violence, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 22, 2008 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

A very interesting drama set primarily during the Holocaust is Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Counterfeiters (in German with English subtitles). This remake of an early 1980s British mini-series about economic blackmail has been ascetically condensed and is Austria's submission as an Academy Award contender for Best Foreign-Language Film.

In a relative short running time for this type of insidious, shadowy effort, the irony of a viewer's reaction, there's something so cerebral and timely that catches into desperation and conflict.

The rise of Nazi Germany is depicted in this autobiographical expose. Salomon (Karl Markovics) is someone whose forging expertise finally gets in him trouble when snared by policeman (Devid Striesow).

This Jew is remanded to a work camp where the prisoners aren't living an austere life at all. The Third Reich wants them to duplicate the currency for Great Britain and the United States. The kicker in Ruzowitzky's screenplay is in the ambiguity created by being around the enemy and possibly furthering a growing resistance.

The desire to perfect fake currency is felt within a need to survive as the material unfolds in a taut way still allowing for internalizations of more characters than anticipated. That includes the rather young Karloff (Sebastian Urzendowsky), the more anguished Loslek (Lenn Kudrjawizki), and the maverick in Burger (August Diehl), whose memoirs were coalesced by Ruzowitzky.

Based on the framing device, one knows the fate of Salomon, but the arc of the character is richly conveyed by Markovics who offers much into such a driven, finally tormented man. The grayness of the characters extends to the military protagonists as played with some gusto by Streisow and a bigoted brute by Martin Brambach.

If one needs the obligatory sadness of the Holocaust to be observed again, that emotion is, in fact, palpable. Along with the haunting, witty, and vivacious, as Ruzowitzky works extremely well with his crew to pack a production with much nuance and stellar craftsmanship. The Counterfeiters is the kind of subtle moral tussle, like Gone Baby Gone, that will leave quite and impression and interpretation long after viewing.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Counterfeiters           B+         B   B+ 

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