The Counterfeiters Blu-ray Review
PictureThe Counterfeiters arrives on BluRay at 1.85:1 using the MPEG-4 codec at 1080p. This feature was shot on hand held 16mm to give the feature a documentary style, and I hasten to add that this style perfectly suits the nature of this film. The print is clean and blemish free yet it is riddled with grain again adding to the documentary feel. The colours are somewhat muted, almost appearing black and white in certain circumstances; yet the film thrusts forward some colour at the end of the film and these colours are bright and vibrant with no sense of bleeding to be seen. Skin tones are spot on even through the accumulated grime on some of the inmates.
Most of the camp scenes are either dimly lit or are night shots. The grain is more prevalent during these scenes and some detail is lost due to this and some crush. Otherwise the detail on offer in the print rooms and counterfeiting areas is excellent with many facets of their operation standing out; the texture of the counterfeited British fiver, the shards of metal on the engraving plates, the dirt on the clothes of the men working there. The casino and hotel scenes show good detail with the ornate gold covered ceilings coming across very well indeed.
There are no compression artefacts and no other encoding anomalies that I could spot. During the initial beach scene and Sally approaching the Monte Carlo hotel there is some enhancement to be seen against the bright sky but it's fleeting and does not continue through the rest of the film; these brighter scenes still show no sign of blooming though. The Counterfeiters will never reside on that demo shelf but then that's not what this film is about, a pristine razor sharp image would somehow have detracted from the enormity of the proceedings; still the video is perfectly suited to the film.
SoundMuch like the video there's nothing here that's either going to stress your speakers or have you reaching for the disc as demo material as and when friends pop over; but still it is perfectly suited to the nature of the film. There is no English track on offer, somewhat surprising considering that the director's commentary is in English. What you have is either German or French Dolby TrueHD, backed up with English subtitles. Dubs should rarely be used anyway so I never found the lack of English a hindrance; so this review as usual discusses the German track.
It's a wholly flat affair nearly always coming from the frontal array. There's never any real need for bombastic explosions or pin sharp steerage from left/right to your surrounds; almost all of the action takes place up front and comes across detailed and with some depth. The rears do kick in ever so slightly on a couple of occasions; when in the casino and an incredible haunting effect in the initial camp hut where there are whispered voices from the myriad of people cooped up in there.
Dialogue is clear, rooted in the centre and rarely will you miss anything which is being said. The fronts are widened somewhat by the sombre overtones of the score but apart from that the stage is somewhat narrow although tonal range is good from the crisp crack of pick axe on rock or German whip to the gravelly voices of some of the camps detainees. LFE is almost non existent apart from some brief scenes near the end when the allies bombing can be heard in the distance.
- Commentary with Director, Stefan Ruzowitzky.
The usual fodder, locations, specific scene discussions, the speed at which the film was shot. It's an enjoyable discussion even though he flies solo. Themes of compromise, friendship and loyalty are mentioned and their importance in the film. Some marketing is discussed and the differences from one country to another.
- Making of The Counterfeiters. - 0:10:03
A brief history lesson mentioning the last two years of the war and the largest counter operation ever realised with 130 million British Pounds eventually being copied. The director speaks and there are interviews with Burger himself. Locations are mentioned and the rebuilding of Sachsenhausen camp. Markovics and Striesow are on screen for a short time detailing their experiences whilst making this film. German with English subs, 480i/MPEG-2.
- 3 Interviews with a Play All option. - 0:38:07
Director Stefan Ruzowitzky: How he got his hands on the script and how he introduced producers to the concept. He was interested in the Solomon character and how he would adjust to a life within a concentration camp. Also interested in Burger and what he currently does, travelling and discussing his history with German students. He involved Burger in the production process making sure that the artistic licenses used didn't veer too far from the original storyline. In English, 480i/MPEG-2.
Adolf Burger: Initially discussing his work "The Devil's Workshop" on which this film was based. How he tried to isolate his past, try and forget it until the Holocaust denials started at which point he felt compelled to relate his stories so that history would not repeat itself. He mentions the slight deviances between the book and film but doesn't berate the film because of this; knowing that film is a different medium and some changes are usually needed. German with English Subs, 480i/MPEG-2.
Karl Markovics: Acknowledges that the initial script brought him to the production; admiring the anti hero character and minimalist acting required. He discusses the minimal research he undertook in order to play the part of Sally, however he indicates that the fact that this was such a good script helped enormously. English, 480i/MPEG-2.
- Adolf Burger's Artifacts. - 0:19:15
Burger on screen remembering his time in Sachsenhausen and why he was relocated there in the first place. There is some repetition from the earlier interview but as it's lengthier then there's obviously further information to glean from this small feature. Interestingly he has photographs and schematics from the original camp and it's a credit to the designers that they made the film sets almost identical. About a third of the way through the sound dips a little and I found myself reaching for the remote to increase the volume somewhat. Burger discusses the relationship which grew up between himself and Salomon Smolianoff. German with English subs, 480i/MPEG-2.
- Q&A with Stefan Ruzowitzky. - 0:13:16
Stefan on stage fielding questions from a moderator discussing shooting, casting, the challenges on filming a real story, what happened to Smolianoff after the war. It's an interesting piece from a production and historical point of view. Interestingly he discusses how Germans reacted to the film knowing some of their relatives may have been involved in these concentration camps. 480i/MPEG-2.
- 4 Deleted Scenes with a Play All option. - 0:03:41
Scenes showing Sally's character before the war, how he tries to continue his gambling in the concentration camp, how Sally tries to protect the boy who had TB and Burger yet again justifying his position to other camp inmates. Bar the last scene I enjoyed the earlier three and feel they should have been kept in the film to reinforce some aspects of Sally's character. German with English subs, 480i/MPEG-2.
- Original Trailer.
As the name suggests the trailer in HD.
Trailers for another 11 films.
There is also BD-Live functionality and although I have had some discs connect with my updated software this one refuses to.
This is an excellent additional set of extras, not only because the usual bases of filming, casting, location and story are covered but also and perhaps, for me anyway, more pertinently there is excellent information from Burger himself on the actual period in history the film covers. It is interesting as well to see that in the Interviews section both Stefan and Karl discuss the German audience; the audience differentiate between art and entertainment and can't seem to solidify the two. This seems to amuse the director and his actor and I must admit brought a smile to my face also.
VerdictThe Counterfeiters is a wonderful film and one which I shall return to every now and again. I thoroughly enjoyed the simple acting from Markovics and Burger, I enjoyed the decision to go for the documentary type filming and directorial style; equally I loved having the back story to one of my favourite BBC comedies from the early Eighties, and with Private Schultz now also on your favourite DVD retailer's books then it's a good opportunity to pick them both up.
Of course this film takes the serious route, not playing on the dry witticism of the earlier production and for a film of this nature there really is no other route to take. The set itself is a fine affair, the video although very grainy perfectly suits this feature and the audio is never stress tested. The extras have had some thought applied to them, offer up information other than the usual filming affair, and that's always welcome.
I have to recommend this to anyone who enjoys excellent acting and fine direction;at times it's a difficult watch but not perhaps as say Schindler's List after all this is first and foremost not a Holocaust movie in the strictest sense of the sub-genre more an insight into one part of the war which for too long has not had the attention it and the counterfeiters so rightly deserve.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.16
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- Commentary with Director, Stefan Ruzowitzky.