Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


In 1944, when the German Reich sees that the end is near, the Nazis decide to produce counterfeit banknotes in the currencies of their enemies to flood and weaken their economies. Notorious counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), arrested before the war and now one of the millions of Jews in captivity, is roped in to help; at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, two barracks are separated from the rest of the camp and transformed into a fully equipped counterfeiter's workshop, housing a select few prisoners. Operation Bernhard is born and 132 million British pounds printed, under conditions that are tragic and spectacular - and despite opposition from fellow Jewish inmate, Adolf Burger (August Diehl).

Review by Louise Keller:
It won the foreign language Oscar and there is nothing fake or contrived about this astonishing true story about the men in a German concentration camp who fought their own little war for survival. But survival is not their only aspiration. Loyalty is also an essential currency and the vow never to 'squeal on one's mates' becomes an Everest almost too high to climb. Ultimately, The Counterfeiters is a story about relationships. It's about the relationships between the incarcerated Jewish counterfeiter and his SS superior as well as that with his principle-driven fellow prisoner. The story fascinates, as does the humanity of the man intent on survival who discovers that winning and losing can offer similar rewards. This is a unique story set in horrific times, when atrocities are every day events duplicated without the skill of a specialist.

The opening scene shows a man in a suit sitting on a pebbled beach. A newspaper's headline shouts the war is over (in French), as it washes to shore, while the lights twinkle brightly in Monte Carlo's infamous casino. Based on Adolf Burger's memoir The Devil's Workshop, Stefan Ruzowitzky's screenplay is set for the most part in the furthest distance imaginable from this playground of the rich and beautiful. It is 1936 and a band of men with varying skills, many from Auschwitz, have been gathered against their will at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp with one object in mind: to destroy the British economy. The challenge facing Karl Markovics' Salomon Sorowitsch and his colleagues is whether or not to sacrifice one's beliefs in order to live for today or face death today.

It is a film of superb performances, with Markovics as Sorowitsch, the man of varying scruples who is used by Devid Striesow's Sturmbannführer Friedrich Herzog for his own purposes. August Diehl plays Burger, the man who has lost everything except his principles and is unable to cry. There are incongruous scenes as operettas blare from the gramophone while the men concentrate on their mission for the enemy, and merciless killings occur only a few metres away. The mood is sombre as the story plays out with hauntingly disturbing scenes. Yet we are uplifted by this memorable story punctuated by elements so extraordinary, it could only be true.

DVD special features include two interviews with Adolf Berger, the forger on whose memor the film is based, an interview with actor Karl Markovics, an interview with director Stefan Ruzowitzky and the original theatrical trailer.

Published October 9, 2008

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(Austria/Germany, 2007)

Die Fälscher

CAST: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Martin Brambach, August Ziner, Veit Stubner, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Andreas Schmidt, Tilo Pruckner

PRODUCER: Josef Aichholzer, Nina Bohlmann, Babette Schroder

DIRECTOR: Stefan Ruzowitzky

SCRIPT: Stefan Ruzowitzky (memoir by Adolf Burger)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benedict Nuenfeld

EDITOR: Britta Nahler

MUSIC: Marius Ruhland


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes




SPECIAL FEATURES: Interviews with forger Adolf Berger on whose memor the film is based; interview with actor Karl Markovics, interview with director Stefan Ruzowitzky and trailer


DVD RELEASE: October 8, 2008

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020