The Counterfeiters (2008)

THE SCOOP
Director:
Stefan Ruzowitzky
Plot: The true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936.

Genre:
Crime/Drama/War
Awards: Won 1 Oscar - best foreign language film

Run
time: 98min
Rating: NC16
for some strong violence, brief sexuality/nudity and language.

TRAILER:


IN RETROSPECT

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007, The Counterfei
ters is a marked improvement over 2006’s winner, The Lives Of Others. Both are German-language films and despite winning the Oscars, these films are not exactly in the top-tier of European foreign cinema. Gone are the days of Federico Fellini (La Strada, La Dolce Vita), Ingmar Bergman (Fanny And Alexander, Wild Strawberries), and Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Day For Night), when the playing field was fertile and rich; when cinema was less entertaining but more fulfilling. Apart from an occasional masterpiece by some promising directors, the standards of European cinema have generally fallen over the last decade.

The Counterfeiters u
nsurprisingly does nothing to turn the tide. Admittedly, it is a solid, serviceable film with a strong leading performance, good pacing, and tremendous storytelling clarity. But does it come close to becoming a classic? Sadly, an honest no. Based on a true event during WWII’s Nazi occupation, The Counterfeiters divulges in detail the establishment of Operation Bernhard, the biggest counterfeiting operation the world has ever seen at that time. The bulk of the film is set in a concentration camp where Jews are tortured and killed. But a small lucky group of them are picked to become integral members of Operation Bernhard because of their skills and knowledge in counterfeiting. One of them, Salomon (played by the effective Austrian actor Karl Markovics) becomes the focal point of the whole film.

Salomon is faced with the expediency of mass producing fake US and UK currencies in a bid by the
Nazis to paralyze the world economy and prolong the war efforts by Germany. The Counterfeiters explores themes of morality versus survival. Yes, as viewers we are quick to condemn these ‘traitors’; but how sure are we that we would not follow suit if we are in a similar situation ourselves? The film demonstrates that our primal survival instincts are perfectly capable of clouding our judgment of ethics in life-and-death circumstances.

Like most war films depicting the Nazis, The Counterfeiters has its fare share of grim Nazi violence and intimidation tactics. The camerawork is shaky during moments of tension, but completely still in scenes of drama. This variation in camera movement and concise storytelling helps to quicken the pace of the film, propelling the story forward without any unnecessary subplots, ensuring a tight and taut hundred minutes that will please many viewers. And the light-hearted jazzy score by Marius Ruhland is like a fresh breeze to the face too.

SCORE: 8/10

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