Sunday, May 03, 2009

Movie Review: The Counterfeiters (2007)

The Counterfeiters is the true story of a still-living German artist who "makes money by making money" rather than making money from art. From a post-war Monte Carlo casino, the Bogart-esque Solly recalls in sepia flashbacks his arrest in pre-war Berlin by the local anti-fraud police captain. Caught up in the sweep of Jews into Auschwitz he survives five years by sketching portraits and murals for his captors.

Fate plucks him from his painting and drops him along with others into S.hausen, a specialty technical research camp where he re-encounters his old nemesis, now a military man on the rise in the new Nazi regime. The Jews in his specialty unit are charged with counterfeiting pound notes intended to destabilize the British economy and win the war for the Nazis. Unpredictable sadism, moral ambivalence, self-contradiction, and acceptance of specialty squad luxuries within a death camp combine to create a grim all-enveloping tension relieved only by unsentimental kindnesses, flickers of conscience, and gallows humor.

This is a movie whose darkness glows with body heat and soul. Its eclectic sound track includes "nigger music" and silence; its camera shots include fast, shaky zooms, selectively collaged glances, a microsecond of the moon seen through an overhead cage in a prisoner 'recreation' area. 'No rules' editing produces surprising moments, and cinematic discipline results in not even a single gratuitous shot. Every scintilla contributes to telling the story.

The Counterfeiters is a masterpiece, especially attentive to the details of storytelling, and touching so deeply that it will be an exceptionally powerful experience for different people for entirely different reasons. Imagine Cool Hand Luke meets Bridge on the River Kwai in Nazi Germany, yet one of the best Holocaust movies made. It is no wonder The Counterfeiters won an Academy Award. For cinematography, editing, sound, writing, acting, music, it is a ten. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, and it will stay with you for a long time.

Ten real ( not counterfeit) gold stars.

The Counterfeiters (2007) at IMDB


hermesheels said...

a fine film, i agree. it's nice to have the AC film series.
i'm actually on your blog because of a post from 2007:
which comes to bear on one of the more unusual valley occurrences of late:
not quite the subject of an emily poem, but perhaps (m) oliver, hauge, (r) hayden or (j) wright would take it on.
anyway, thanks for the view from emily's room.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson said...

dear t, thank you for the comment and for mentioning Mr. Milakulis unfortunate passing. I felt like I had been talking even laughing about the dead. It was eerie. My condolences if Mr. Milakulis was a friend ....

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson said...

Mikalunas, not Milakulis, sorry.