Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Counterfeiters and Depressing "Must-See" WWII Movies

There's all sorts of many movies that are deemed as "must see" movies. Often depressing one's sneak into the "must see" category because there stories are "important."

I have some favorite movies of this "must see because they're important, even though they are depressing variety," for example Sophie's Choice or Schindler's list. Or non-WWII related films of this variety like Hotel Rwanda.

It seems like if you are trying to make one of these "must see because it's important" movies, that Holocaust and concentration camps make the perfect subject. It's depressing, true stories, and have immense importance (the future repeats the past unless we learn our history).

If you follow my reel people series, you have recently read about Haley Joel Osment's role in the movie Truth & Treason, a film due out later this year. Depressing! Depressing! Depressing!

The Holocaust certainly doesn't lack depressing stories. Many of these also feature great heroes of all nationalities, but even in the face of heroism there is loss and death in these tales.

The film The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher) is a Austrian film that took home the Oscar for best foreign language film at the 2008 Academy Awards ceremony.

If you have seen this film, it is very interesting in that while it portrays the horrible reality of concentration camp life and some of the individual and national pains associated with the Holocaust, the film's principal character Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a fictional counterfeiter who leads the real Operation Bernard, an attempt to counterfeit the British pound and American dollar.

This character is a challenging one, because amidst all the brutality, fear, sorrow, and death, Sally is more interested in preserving his own life, although at the same time not compromising the other men on the project who are less-then-helpful.

Sally is not your typical hero or sympathetic lead. I watched the film and while finding some parts interesting, I had a hard time classifying this film in the "depressing but must see" category.

When I think about other Holocaust related projects that are in the works I wonder about what value future projects have. Do we need to keep on telling the stories? What stories haven't been told that need to be told again, or told better? Do efforts at being original, or tell stories differently compromise the events or make them commonplace?

I'm not sure, but I wonder.


Amy said...

I think there will always be stories to tell, but they need to be told originally and told well. I think every aspect of the human experience in relation to these horrific events leaves room to be explored. The Reader, for example, was very powerful for me, (the book more than the film, but I seeing the film made me read the book) in the issues it explored.

However, telling a story just to tell a story about these events is sort of pointless.

Grete said...

So... related to the "depressing but impactful" types of movies, my hubby doesn't want to watch them with me anymore.

From our Netflix queue, I'd added Burn After Reading, King of California, Donnie Darko, In Bruges, and The Visitor because I'd heard they were creative and good. Well, after viewing them, they all had odd (and often violent) twists that left you feeling a little put off at the end.

So on our queue now is Bolt, Fantastic Four, Marley & Me, Seven Pounds, and some others in the "happier" and more predictable genre. :)

RC said...

@Grete! Those are heavy selections.

Sounds like it's time to sanitize the heavy films with a little High School Musical or something :-)

Aimee said...

Ryan- I'm wondering if you saw The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, this fits in with the "depressing WWII movies" theme... Joe and I watched this and walked away feeling quite down, yet it was definitely an interesting and different take on the Holocaust...