Die Fälscher aka The Counterfeiters is one of the most highly acclaimed Austrian/German movies of the last years and got many prizes. It’s a good movie, based on an incredible true story, with great actors and some very thought-provoking elements but…. But what? I am at a loss. Did I not like it? Maybe not but there are many war movies I absolutely don’t like but still think they are great or very good. Why not this one? It does belong to the subcategory of Holocaust/concentration camp movies and as such it is not up to others, maybe that is the reason… I found the story fascinating and the dilemma worthwhile, still….
Solomon “Sally” Sorowitsch, a Russian Jew, lives the good life in Berlin, just before the war. He is the king of the counterfeiters. He has a lot of money that he spends on champagne, women, parties and gambling. The good life ends when Superintendent Friedrich Herzog arrests him. He is sent to the concentration camp Mathausen. Mathausen is a concentration camp just like Auschwitz. Forced-labour, unspeakable conditions, dirt, no food, abuse, mistreatment…When a guard discovers Sally’s talent as an artist, his life changes. He isn’t treated like the others anymore. In exchange for paintings for the Germans he gets privileges. After some time he is transferred to Sachsenhausen where he and a big group of others will live in luxurious barracks. They have been picked by the very same Herzog who arrested Sally. They have all been chosen for particular skills and are ordered to start to forge first the British Pound and then the American Dollar. Sally has no morals, as long as he can save his life and live comfortably he doesn’t care too much how he achieves this goal. But there are others in the group who do not think that way. To forge the currency of the Allies means to help the Nazis. If it wasn’t for a particularly sadistic guard – who knows – maybe Sally’s conscience wouldn’t have been awakened but in the end it is.
When the war is over, Sally knows once more how to make the most out of the situation, and, like before, in the end, being the gambler he is, he loses all.
The movie does ask some interesting questions. Is it justifiable to want to save your own life? Should you sacrifice a few for many others?
Sorowitsch is a fascinating character and his skills are amazing. It is an interesting movie and if I hadn’t felt, that I have to like it, maybe I would have appreciated it more.