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The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher

Darsteller / Actors Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, August Zirner etc. 
Regie / Director Stefan Ruzowitzky 
Total run time
98 min
Vö / Release
FSK/not under:
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Just rewarded with the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this movie proves that indeed there is something like a „real“ Austrian film scene, beyond documentaries - e.g.. Michael Glawogger „Megacities“ - or pseudo-dokumentaries - Ulrich Seidl - „Hundstage / Dog Days“. Still, without some aid from abroad (German film fond, ZDF) this might have ended as another good script gathering dust in some drawer – which would have been a pity, because The Counterfeiters is one of those must-sees.

The Counterfeiters is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936. Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics, best known to most from the TV Series „Inspector Rex“) is the king of counterfeiters. He lives a mischievous life of cards, booze, and women in Berlin during the Nazi-era. Suddenly his luck runs dry when arrested by Superintendent Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow). Immediately thrown into the Mauthausen concentration camp, Salomon exhibits exceptional skills there and is soon transferred to the upgraded camp of Sachsenhausen. Upon his arrival, he once again comes face to face with Herzog, who is there on a secret mission. Hand-picked for his unique skill, Salomon and a group of professionals are forced to produce fake foreign currency under the program Operation Berhard. The team, which also includes detainee Adolf Burger (August Diehl), is given luxury barracks for their assistance. But while Salomon attempts to weaken the economy of Germany´s allied opponents, Adolf refuses to use his skills for Nazi profit and would like to do something to stop Operation Bernhard´s aid to the war effort. Faced with a moral dilemma, Salomon must decide whether his actions, which could prolong the war and risk the lives of fellow prisoners, are ultimately the right ones.

The excellent cast and the partly lofty-sarcastic dialoge gets definitely under your skin, typical concentration camp horror or splatter scenes are scarce. The hero is everything but likeable at first, there are a lot of greys, just like in real life where it´s also not that easy to separate black and white. The horror wears a friendly face, therefore mission commander Herzog – and his wife! - are at least as creepy as Ralph Fiennes´ neurotic Amon Goeth in „Schindler´s List“. Apropos, I don´t even want to imagine what Hollywood had made of the same script – this is finally one of those films that grab you and give you 98 min of emotional rollercoaster, but still without kitsch, melodrama and tear jerking overdose. Still, don´t forget to take handkerchiefs with you...

Klaudia Weber

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