Holocaust films are always hard to watch but the best, “The Piano” and “Life Is Beautiful,” tend to distract you with stories about distraction leading to survival. “The Counterfeiters” is the incredible true story of a Jewish master craftsman thrown into the concentration camps for, of all things, counterfeiting. Ironically this crime is the gift that gives him the chance to survive for years by helping the Nazi’s mint currency to prolong the war.
The counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch is played with incredible intensity by Karl Markovics whose emotions and expressions beat with a fearlessness that somehow allows the movie to keep the realities of death enough at bay to lose yourself in the dark flow of the film. Markovics, like Duvall’s Lt. Colonel Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” eminates a kind of glow that you know will let him emerge from the war without a scratch, but is forced to take risks that could cause the deaths of the men around him. Working for the Nazi’s is like playing poker with the devil, but drawing the perfect card against the evil empire is redemption like no other.
War is bleak, and the Holocaust will always feel like the most devasting of them all, but “The Counterfeiters” is one of the most compelling war films of the past decade. This film can not be missed.