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The Counterfeiters
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For Some Strong Violence, Brief Sexuality/Nudity and Language)

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Starring: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Marie Baumer, Martin Brambach and Dolores Chaplin

Written and Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky

 

Studio: Sony

Retail Price: $38.96

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Stefan Ruzowitzky, The Making Of The Counterfeiters, Interviews, Adolf Burger's Artifacts, Q&A With Director Stefan Ruzowitzky, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, German Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

Released: August 5th, 2008


 

 

"The Counterfeiters" is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, in an excellent 1080p high definition transfer. I appreciate that Sony didn't gloss this transfer up, and kept to director Stefan Ruzowitzky's vision: the back of the keepcase states that the use of different film stocks and grain structures is intentional. (I guess grain might be something to explain as Blu-ray's user base grows.) In any case, this is a superb transfer - rich with detail, and very accurate fleshtones. Much like the standard DVD, the movie's bleak and soft look is retained, complete with the pale and gray colors - but the extra resolution really makes an impression, bringing you more into the horrors of the story. It's not quite perfect, and may not be demo material, but I very much appreciate that this transfer keeps in line with Ruzowitzky's stark visual style. 


 

The German Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for "The Counterfeiters" is a bit of an improvement over the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the standard DVD. I felt that the surrounds were layered a bit more thickly; there were more depth to them and sounded more discrete. I found the more violent moments of the movie to stand out more, but also some sounds that rest more in the background - such as the printing press. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and the music - be it the opera selections or instrumental pieces from Marius Ruhland - also had a richness. Dynamic range is strong, and bass runs deep. It may not be a night and day enhancement over the Dolby Digital mix on the standard DVD, but overall, the TrueHD mix has a bit more breadth and is preferential. It's a captivating sonic experience that does not disappoint.

Subtitles in English, French and Spanish are included, as are English closed captions through your television. A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track in French is also available.
 




There's a very informative Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Stefan Ruzowitzky that gives a great overview of the film. Ruzowitzky is very chatty, and covers pretty much everything you would want to know: location shooting, the cast (fun and slightly disturbing fact: Dolores Chapman wore her grandmother's undergarments for a scene), rehearsals technical challenges and the like. Most fascinating to me though was when Ruzowitzky touched upon crafting the script, and him working with Adolf Burger, who's life and book served as a guide for the story. I was very impressed in how Ruzowitzky stays screen-specific, all while talking up different aspects of the scenes. This is a very strong overview of the movie, and one of the best commentaries I have listened to in a long time. If you liked the movie, then I highly recommend re-visitng it with Ruzowitzky's comments.

The 10 minute Making The Counterfeiters is a great little piece. Some of Ruzowitzky's comments understandably overlap with what he says in his commentary, and the cast also talk about the film and their characters. But the real highlight is seeing parts of the lecture Adolf Burger gives to students, and talking a bit about his own life. Well worth a watch.

Also worth watching are three Interviews - one with Ruzowitzky, one with actor Karl Markovics and the other with Adolf Burger. Ruzowitzky talks about how he got to make the film, developing the script from Burger's book, the challenges of pre-production, casting and shooting difficult scenes. Markovics talks about his reactions to the script, researching the character and making the movie. Most interesting though is the interview with Burger, who tells key parts of his life and shows off some personal mementos. Taken together, this is about 38 minutes of material.

A real treat is the nearly-20 minute featurette Adolf Burger's Artifacts. In a way, it's like hearing a truncated version of Burger's famed lecture - and it really puts the movie in historical perspective. Burger discusses what he counterfeited while in a concentration camp, and even has a map to highlight how the camp was layered. Burger also shows off photos (some pretty horrifying), stamps, bank notes, maps and even a few newspaper clippings (plus his book). This is a must watch. 

If you can't get enough of the movie's writer/director, then you'll be happy to know there's a Q&A Session with Mr. Ruzowitzky, running 13 minutes and 15 seconds. Taken from AFI Fest, it's a strong session but some of the information is repetetive when put with other features on this DVD. Ruzowitzky discusses working with the cast, writing the screenplay, changes that had to be made in the script, not filming at the actual concentration camp where the film takes place and what happened to the real Salomon Sorowitsch. Despite some comments that may seem familiar if you sat through everything else, there is enough new information here - especially when it comes to Ruzowitzky placing his film in context in relation to Germany and other movies about the Holocaust.

Rounding the disc off are four Deleted Scenes that total less than 4 minutes, and the original Theatrical Trailer

 

"The Counterfeiters" is a gripping survivor's tale and character study, and was certainly worthy of the Best Foreign Film Oscar. If you have a Blu-ray player, then you must check out this version over the standard DVD. The insightful extras are the same, but the high definition transfer thankfully retains director Stefan Ruzowitzky's vision and the Dolby TrueHD track is a tad bit better than the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. In the end though, this still remains a must see movie, regardless of your home theater equipment.