Monday, July 21, 2008

The Counterfeiters

You could say concentration camp movies have been done to death and although it would be a pun in extremely bad taste, it would be at least partly true. And you would hope that The Counterfeiters, having won this year's Oscar for best foreign language film, would have something rewarding or refreshing to contribute to the genre and that hope is more than partly realised.

This movie is the story of how counterfeit pounds and dollars and other documents were produced by skilled Jewish labour in concentration camps for their Nazi oppressors. History buffs may know about this already, but I didn't so I learned something. The skilled workers in the story enjoyed vastly improved conditions relative to the average prisoner, partly due to the value of their skills and partly due to the management philosophy of the officer in charge of the operation. The the telling of the story was both factually and dramatically interesting. It was interesting to see a part of concentration camp life where suffering wasn't absolute and also to see how each worker coped with that. It was also interesting to see how the workers balanced the desire to stay alive with the desire not to aid the Nazi regime too much. Some characters were very open about their attitudes and other were more guarded - you had to make inferences from they way they acted.

The protagonist is a professional counterfeiter and it was fun to have a criminal not very jewish-looking character being the centre of the story. The officer in charge is a relatively jovial character who claims he was once a member of the communist party and again it was fun to have a not-quite-so-bad baddie. In echo of Black Book, the lines between the good guys and the bad guys were blurred just a little.

These fun aspects were counter-balanced by moments of absolute pathos - most notably when the new recruits are shown their bunks and touch their sheets in wonder and also when one worker finds his own children's passports in a pile of documents they are using to make replicas.

This movie kept my attention and I would recommend it unless you're too sensitive to watch any depiction of human suffering.

Anne's rating 4/5
Ian's rating 4/5

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:34 am

    I accept the historical viewpoint, and while I was vaguely aware of the subject of the film as having happened I certainly wasnt au fait with the extent of it.

    Yet aside from this perspective, I found the film disappointing, because while there were negative emotions galore, there was virtually nothing positive or uplifting in the entire film; True it might be difficult to do so convincingly with the subject matter, but all the same it left be cold, and I wouldnt recommend it.

    The movie itself was done well, but there wasnt sufficient to draw me - it was "just a movie" or "ok", but I cannot consider it good. 2*'s.