Sunday, August 10, 2008


Written and Directed by Stefan Ruzowitski
Starring Karl Markovics, August Diehl and Devid Streisow

This year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, THE COUNTERFEITERS, made its way from Austria to North American theatres last spring and now finds a welcome resting place on home video. A jittery camera captures a nervewracking experience for wanted counterfeiter, Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics). After being caught by the Berlin authorities, Sorowitsch is sent to a Nazi concentration camp. His special talents get him assigned to the “cushiest” barracks on site so that he and a group of other supposedly fortunate prisoners can manufacture the money needed to fund the war against their own people. Their beds may be softer and the shower chambers may actually be for showering but it is still a camp no matter how you dress it up and you can only hide from the horrors happening on the other side of the fence for so long.

THE COUNTERFEITERS is an exceptional film that found equally exceptional success in theatres and is now an exceptional DVD. It debuted in theatres the same week it took home the Oscar and continued to expand until April when it played on a total of 170 screens. Each week it posted gains and went on to gross a total of $5.5 million for a worldwide total of $17 million. The film’s financing successes and Oscar win have allowed for an expansive DVD that is as thorough as it is insightful. Writer/Director, Stefan Ruzowitzky, gives an impressive commentary that is everything one could hope for. He speaks non-stop as though he has far too many things to say and not enough time to say it. He goes back and forth between discussing the filming, the locations, the music and the history behind this moving story. Other special features include a 10-minute “making of”, a Q&A with Ruzowitzki at the American Film Institute screening, deleted scenes – essentially everything you would expect from a high profile Hollywood feature but what is so often missing on smaller gems like THE COUNTERFEITERS. In what is perhaps the most affecting feature, there are 20 minutes with Adolf Burger, the now 90-year-old survivor, whose memoirs the film is based on, where Burger talks about his experiences and illustrates his points with artifacts from his time in captivity.

THE COUNTERFEITERS is at times horrific but not so much so that it is too difficult to watch. In fact, the film allows for a certain respect for both its characters and the audience that makes it possible to appreciate the plight of these men. What comes through is the struggle between survival of the individual versus the salvation of many and how being in control of that kind of decision is dreadful no matter how you dress it. THE COUNTERFEITERS DVD and all it offers only further makes the forgery a reality.


No comments: