2007 - Austria - 98 minutes
Director - Stefan Ruzowitzky
Writer - Stefan Ruzowitzky from a book by Adolf Burger
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008, Die Fälscher is one of those films that is hard to watch, but one that should be watched by anyone with a conscience. The twist and the questions of principle and morality are that here is a group of Jews in a concentration camp who are treated relatively as kings as opposed to the prisoners by whom they are surrounded in the.
The film revolves around the character of Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch who is a forger arrested by the Germans near the beginning of WWII. He is sent to a concentration camp but, after five years, is transferred. He finds that he has been transferred to a camp where specialists in engraving, etc. have been collected to produce counterfeit documents. He and his fellows are enclosed in a special compound and treated well.
Their first big assignment is to produce counterfeit English pound notes. After months of trial, they are finally successful and produce notes so well counterfeited that they are not even recognized by the Bank of England. They eventually print millions of pounds of counterfeit notes.
The next assignment is to produce counterfeit United States currency. Sorowitsch is thwarted in his efforts to produce the counterfeits by Adolf Burger who is an idealistic young printer who keeps subtlety sabotaging the printing procedure.
A war of wills takes place between the two men - one a practical thief and the other an idealistic. Eventually Sorowitsch is able to circumvent Burger's efforts and an excellent bill is produced, but it comes too late because Germany has been defeated.
All of the characters in the film are amalgams of different real people except for Adolf Burger, but even the character of Burger in the film is based upon another prisoner. Thus, the film is an engrossing fiction based upon real people and events. That is of little import because it is the story and the emotions that are paramount, and those are genuine.
In real life, Adolf Burger (Link) remained silent about the events in the film until he was prompted to respond the neo-Nazis denying the Holocaust. He wrote The Devil's Workshop that details his experience firmly supported by documentation. He appears in a special feature on the DVD describing his actions. As for the actual counterfeited currency, it was dumped into Lake Toplitz in Austria and uncovered fifty-five years later due to an investigative piece by 60 Minutes (Link).
Die Fälscher is a sober but highly entertaining film about man and what he will do to survive. It enables the viewer to ponder which of the characters he/she would be had he/she been put in the same situation. It is a high quality production with superior acting surely deserving of its awards.
August 9, 2008