The Counterfeiters Stefan Ruzowitzky

The Counterfeiters Stefan Ruzowitzky
There are a few gestures towards originality in this unusually themed Holocaust drama but the filmmakers don’t have the courage to pull them off — the minute it looks like there might be some insight it scurries back to the safety of stereotype. Too bad, because the true story behind it is pretty fascinating.

As the title suggests, the film deals with the biggest counterfeiting operation in history, one in which the Nazis planned to flood Allied countries with bogus currency and thus ruin their economies. To do this, they enlist the talents of a special team of interned Jews, most important of these is Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a master criminal whose counterfeiting prowess is apparently peerless. But the Jews on this detail, given special privileges and separated from the rest of the camp inmates, have crises of conscience, unsure of whether to save their skins by helping the Nazis or sabotage the operation and risk death.

The levels of survivor guilt would have provided a wealth of complexity to any director firing on all cylinders but Stefan Ruzowitzky is only barely aware of the possibilities. Though he sort of gets the implications of the material, he’s more concerned with making a normal movie and buries some provocative themes under stock characters and obvious choices, including a hardcore communist whose stridency is used as a distancing device.

Worse movies have been made on the subject, and you won’t feel unduly cheated by the undeniably incredible story, but it’s nothing more than a time-killer when the issues it raises deserve far more detailed analysis. (Mongrel Media)