I first heard of this film when it took home Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
This is the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation ever attempted, which of course was achieved by the Nazis in 1936. Salomon Sorowitsch is the king of all counterfeiters. With his crooked nose, hunched shoulder, and somber eyes, Sally lives a carefree life of cars, booze, and of course women. Making a careless mistake for a woman, the money maker is finally arrested by Superintendent Herzog. This arrest is a career making move for the young officer.
Salomon is immediately thrown into a concentration camp. Luckily for him, he is no stranger to prison and immediately adapts to survive. Painting portraits for Nazi officers, he quickly moves up the ranks enjoying the benefits of a valued Jew.
Without warning Salomon is transferred to another camp where he learns that he's been handpicked with other Jewish professionals, to produce fake foreign currency to flood the economy of German enemies. Because of their skill and value, the men are treated with soft beds and warm food. All is going well for the prisoners until one martyr hungry Jew decides he will no longer support the Nazi war effort. He would rather die than prolong the war that will ultimately kill thousands more. The man begins sabotaging the money, risking the lives of the men. Salomon is faced with a moral decision of saving the only thing he has, his life, or risking it all for what is right.
The movie was definitely good but ultimately not as impressive as I would've liked. I loved Salomon. I loved watching him work and stroll through the scenes. I love the concept of flooding your enemy's economy with fake money and using that as a weapon. I think ultimately though, the movie disappears into an already oversaturated World War 2 culture. Although offering another twist on the concentration camp it really shows us nothing new about what happened there. What the prisoners go through spurs on no new emotions or reasons to care. Don't get me wrong. I'm no heartless bastard. I'm just saying that when you've seen over ten concentration camp movies you've seen them all. No matter what twist you throw on the movie, it still carries that cloudy depressing feel of a world gone heartless.
Karl Markovics who plays Salomon was the perfect choice for this role. This actor and his character absolutely hands down make the movie. Karl carries a very unique presence onto the screen. A very patient, quiet man, yet still the actor demands the respect of the men and the eyes of the women. His face and structure are unique to any other character. His face always looks tired and bored. The angles of his cheeks and nose are sharp and deep. There is one scene where he is standing in a dark camp corridor under over hanging lights. He's smoking a cigarette while watching a Jew get the crap beat out of him. With the collar of his coat high and the shadows heavy under his eyes... this was my favorite shot of the movie.
The cinematography of the films has a gritty almost 16mm feel. Well placed zooms and quick camera moves startle you at times breaking away from the overall normal stagnant camera. I think the style worked well especially when concerning the audio and music. Both were very stylistic and at certain scenes would abruptly break rank and offer a weird almost unfitting tweak. For example, while Salomon is on the chain gang, he passes by a soldier being killed. The very analogue simple audio immediately takes on an unnerving electronic twitch. A very nice effect.
As mentioned before, The Counterfeiters is no doubt a very good movie. But to me personally, was just another take on a horrible period in history.