Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 5:13 am | Fair 33º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Die Falscher (The Counterfeiters)’

The authenticity of a moral dilemma confronts us with our own disturbing choices.

3 Stars — Disturbing

The moral issues of real life are far more disturbing than those of a fictional tale. When a film portrays an actual event in human history, we know that the actors are not being forced to face fabricated circumstances but rather re-enacting events that have actually occurred. This adds an additional level of identification with the story as we wonder how we would have dealt with such circumstances, especially when the events involve the systemic evil of genocidal racism perpetrated by the Nazi party during World War II. Winner of the Academy Award for best foreign film, Die Falscher (The Counterfeiters) is a German film directed by Stefan Ruzowitsky.

Written by one of the characters around whom the story revolves, Adolf Burger (August Diehl) presents the story of Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), who was believed to be the most gifted counterfeiter of all time. Arrested for attempting to pass a fake American dollar, Sorowitsch not only becomes a prisoner in the Jewish concentration camps, but he also has the green triangle on his number that designates him as a career criminal.

The arresting officer is Sturmbannfuhrer Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow), an opportunistic man who uses his knowledge of counterfeiting and counterfeiters to talk the Reich leaders into an orchestrated attempt to create American dollars and British pounds to undermine their enemies’ economies while funding Germany’s own war effort.

The moral struggles are many. Herzog uses the war and the difficulties of others for personal gain. Burger is an idealist who believes it is better to die for one’s beliefs than to help the Nazi party pursue its racist and imperial intentions. Sorowitsch is a criminal who has little trouble using his artistic ability to create counterfeit bills. But to say he is a criminal doesn’t entirely describe him. He is also fiercely loyal to his fellow prisoners and puts his own safety at peril in order to help them.

Rated R for the violent realism of the concentration camp horrors, the disregard for the Jewish people shown by the Nazi officers is abhorrent. Realizing that they do not have the skills to create counterfeit currency that will pass American and British scrutiny, the Nazi officers seem to miss the point that their “inferior” Jewish prisoners are able to do so. The incongruity of the situation is all the more disturbing as these counterfeiters are treated to good food, soft beds and recreation while just outside the walls of their barracks, their fellow prisoners are cruelly beaten and killed.

What is missing from this film is evidence of the spiritual lives of these Jewish men whose very designation is based on the call of God upon their ancestor, Abraham. In a world in which it should be obvious that all human beings are valuable, the truth is that genocidal wars and racial hatred continue to plague us. This will be true until we all realize that God has called all of us to be his chosen people living together in peace.

Discussion:

• The nature of racism is to dehumanize those of another race using animal names to describe them. In this film, the Jewish prisoners are referred to as “swine” and “dogs.” Do you see any such dehumanizing labeling of a group of people in our culture today?

• When God called Abraham to leave his homeland and become the father of his chosen people, his descendants began a long journey that has lasted 4,000 years. The obvious importance of these people far outweighs their statistical presence. Why do you believe this is so? Why do you believe so many people become jealous and hateful toward them?

• Herzog’s opportunistic use of the war for his own personal gain is a part of the so-called military-industrial-complex that becomes wealthy when war is waged. Who do you see benefiting from the wars in your lifetime?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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