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'The Counterfeiters'

A Nazi plot to destabilize the U.S. and British economies through massive circulation of fake currency rests on the talents of Jewish master-forger Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) in this flawed by intriguing drama.

We meet Salomon in Monte Carlo shortly after the war, where he seems hell-bent on losing every banknote in a suitcase packed full to bursting. The film then flashes back to 1936, to find him celebrated in the Jewish community for his fake passports — and yet unable to escape being rounded up, during a sweep of Berlin, for being both a Jew and a habitual criminal.

Salomon ends up in Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp, where his skills making portraits and propaganda murals get him isolated from the general population along with a few printers, artists and paper-makers who are ordered to create perfect dollars and pound notes — or die.

The moral dilemma, as pointed out by a communist printer who begins sabotaging the work, is that if they fail they'll all be killed, but if they succeed, their work will result in the deaths of countless others. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky details how the men — the story has been fictionalized, but it's essentially true — found a middle way, and if his approach is low-key and conventional to a fault, it nonetheless earned the film an Oscar nomination.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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