The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher, Stefan Ruzowitzky, Austria/Germany, 2007)
If winning the Best Foreign Film Oscar is anything to go by, this should be a popular film. It recently closed the German Film Festival and has a theatrical release this week. It’s yet another film that depicts
The film is about Jews incarcerated in WWII concentration camps with criminal and commercial talents being exploited by the Nazis. The operation (and a historically factually one) was to counterfeit
Saloman (Sally) is a Jewish career criminal, and prior to WWII is incarcerated for various offences. With the rise of Nazism and deportment to concentration camps, Sally does whatever it takes to stay alive. At first, he is in demand as a portrait artist, but later is seconded to the ambitious Nazi operation to destroy its enemies by economic means.
The film is based on a true story and is an interesting enough premise. It just didn’t work for me, mainly because the director doesn’t trust his audience. There is little subtlety, and the film relies on too many contrasts. For example, the film opens with Sally a free man, using exaggeratedly warm colours and as soon as he is incarcerated, the colours move to the opposite end of the spectrum.
The cinematographer uses hand-held camera with jerky movements, clumsy zoom, etc, yet the visuals are highly stylised (and look great, mind you), yet don’t match the cinema verite camera effect.
While there is a certain dramatic tension during most of the film that many will enjoy, I found the ending lacked adequate dramatic build-up. It was pretty much an anti-climax. I’m sure many audiences will come out raving about The Counterfeiters, and its Oscar win can only help it, but it left me cold.