Monday, August 4, 2008


The Counterfeiters (German: Die Fälscher) is an Academy Award winning 2007Austrian/German film written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. It fictionalizes Operation Bernhard, a secret plan by the Nazis during the Second World War to destabilize the United Kingdom by flooding its economy with forged Bank of England currency. It won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008 for Austria.

Ruzowitzky explores the moral corrosion of Nazi complicity with this tightly wound adaptation of Adolf Burger's fact-based book The Devil's Workshop. Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) may be a talented artist at heart, but his desire for wealth has driven him to use his creativity for more nefarious means. Arrested by the police inspector Herzog (Devid Striesow) at the onset of World War II, Sorowitsch is sent to the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp. It's not long before Salomon's thinly veiled opportunism earns him a relatively comfortable position as the camp's resident sketch artist, and five years later he is mysteriously swept away to Sachsenhausen.

Upon arriving at the camp, Sorowitsch discovers that Herzog, now a commandant, is attempting to destabilize the economies of the Allies while simultaneously funding the Nazi war machine by assembling a special team of counterfeit artists to create millions in fraudulent pounds and dollars. As the operation gets under way, Sorowitsch finds the efforts of the team continually undermined by unyieldingly idealistic collotype specialist Adolf Burger (August Diehl). In the months that follow, the team wrestles with their consciences as Axis forces are gradually overwhelmed by Allied might.

I was surprised that The Counterfeiters won the Oscar for best foreign language film because I'm pretty sure I've seen a bunch of foreign films this past year that were way better. I'm surprised that it even got nominated to tell you the truth. Maybe Oscar voters just don't have good taste in foreign films. Take for example Amelie not winning the Oscar or A Very Long Engagement not even getting a nomination, losing out to The Chorus, which was a crappy film. Maybe Counterfeiters was up against some even worse movies, I don't know since I haven't seen any of the other ones that were nominated yet.

I am just shocked that a movie this bad even won an Oscar. It has all the setup to be an Oscar contending movie though. You have WWII, Nazi's, concentration camps and Jews fighting to survive. What more do you need in a film to be nominated for an Oscar? However, The Counterfeiters doesn't know how to use these things to make a good movie. The direction is horrible with hardly any establishing shots. Just a lot of close-ups of faces and shaky camera work. The camera shakes and zooms into faces so much that it makes The Blair Witch Project look like Lawrence of Arabia. The film quality is also very bad. It's almost like watching an episode of 24.

The acting is probably the only good thing in the movie. Markovics does a fine job, even if he is kind of hard on the eyes. His face looks like someone hit it with a sledgehammer and he has the personality of a marble. He has sex twice in the movie and you have to wonder if those women might have been mentally handicapped.

The movie begins, continues and ends very uninterestingly. The fact that the movie was based on a true story must have been lost on the filmmakers because they make no attempt to take that story and make it interesting in anyway. The writing is bad and uneventful. There is no way that this true story, set in a concentration camp, could have been this boring. I blame the filmmakers and not the true events or even the book it was based on.

The Counterfeiters: 3 out of 10

The DVD features director's commentary, a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and crew.



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