Austria’s The Counterfeiters, which hits theaters today, follows in the tradition of another Oscar-nominated Holocaust film, Schindler’s List for at its center, we find a removed and callow egoist who eventually wins us over. This time, however, that character happens to be Jewish.
Salomon Sorowitsch, played by Karl Markovics, is the consummate con artist with unprecedented talents in the art of imitating any and all types of currency. As a result, he is able to navigate safely through life during the Nazi reign. His character arc reminds the viewer that not everyone went through this most horrific of experiences, immediately settling into the role of a hapless victim and a we’re-all-in-this-together attitude. It’s easy for him to feel this way in the "Golden Cage," a set of barracks reserved for the talented few who can help the Nazis with Operation Bernhard, the production of fake British Pounds and U.S. Dollars intended for the ruin of those countries’ economies. The conditions Sorowitsch experiences, provide a secondhand perspective on the atrocities that abound, not unlike Adrien Brody’s hauntingly removed Wladyslaw Szpilman inThe Pianist.
The Counterfeiters is a gripping film with the remarkable willingness to stare into the abyss that is the Holocaust through the eyes of a conniving, calculating crook. When a man like Sorowitsch gains a perspective on the value and honor of human life, it is that much more meaningful.