Die Mönefachers: The Counterfeiters

Die Fälscher won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language picture and happens to be the only one of the nominees to actually make it to a local theater (a few days) before the ceremonies.

You can’t ever get enough WWII stories, apparently. This shows us yet another angle we’ve never seen: Nazi counterfeiting rings. (Well, at least not in this detail.)

This is the story of a Jewish counterfeiter who’s captured by the Nazis and placed into a concentration camp where he manages to survive by doing portraits of various representatives of the Master Race long enough to be enlisted into the Nazi’s scheme to fund their war effort and bankrupt the allies by forging pounds and dollars.

The movie gets off to a bit of a slow start, but builds nicely as the counterfeiter (Karl Markovics, whose oeuvre I’m unfamiliar with, though there are familiar faces from Das leben der anderen and Downfall) goes from a near sociopathic state to something a little more human.

It’s not an easy transformation: The counterfeiter (Saloman) is constantly forced to act in self-interest to survive. The world is telling him to act as he’s always done, but he doesn’t like the world that this creates. By the time he’s confronted with the reality of funding the Nazi war effort or dying and letting his fellow concentration camp inmates, he’s clearly conflicted. Intriguingly, he has one code (don’t squeal) that he holds on to when almost everyone else is surviving at any cost.

The movie is nicely bookended with Saloman visiting Monte Carlo with a briefcase full of cash.
You have a different view of that at the beginning than you do at the end.

I don’t know if it was the best foreign movie of the year, but it was the best of the five I’ve seen.

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