Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Oscar-winning Austrian selection for Best Foreign Language Academy Award, “The Counterfeiters” (Die Falscher), is very good, no matter how much one might have wished a movie like the sterling, startling “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” (from Romania) to have been in the top five selected through the Academy’s arcane processes, which include the selection of a single entrant from each non-English speaking country, selected by a local industry committee and to have the largest percentage of its dialogue in its native language. (The forthcoming Israeli film “The Band’s Visit,” a comedy about miscommunication, was tossed out because its Hebrew- and Arabic-speaking characters can only communicate in fractured English, ergo too much of the “wrong” language.) Based on a novel called “The Devil’s Workshop,” “The Counterfeiters” succeeds best in portraying how small moral choices are compounded in the face of the need to survive. The story wends its way to 1944, where Jews and criminals in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin have been assembled to forge as many dollars and pounds as possible to undermine the economies of the Allies. Seedy-featured Karl Markovics makes a watchable antihero. But indirection is the way to go with any contemporary Holocaust drama that hopes to succeed, and at its best moments, Ruzowitzky’s film accomplishes that. (The little-seen “Fateless” may be the latter-day avatar of this approach.) There’s a world outside the walls of the compound, and from sound and rumor, a terrible one, a frightening one that the captives’ imagination doubtlessly knows will turn out as terrible as history knows. Antiheroes survive, but at great cost. 99m. (Ray Pride)
“The Counterfeiters” opens Friday at Music Box.