I was urged by friends to view the German movie, The Counterfeiters, directed by Stefan Ruzowitsky and winner of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2008. Somehow I had missed reviews about this movie at the time of the Academy Awards. I had a vague and incorrect idea of a Mob movie set in glamourous Monte Carlo or Cannes. Just as well I was uninformed as I don't know if I would have had the stomach for it otherwise. The movie tells the story of a motley bunch of Jewish prisoners in the dreaded Sachsenhausen concentration camp during WWII. The men, some with and others without any printing expertise, led by a wily professional forger, 'Sally' Sorowitsch, were spared the horrors in order to forge pound and dollar banknotes to flood the Allied economies and destabilize them. Grim viewing, indeed.
But amidst the camp's miserable greyness, the bullying cruelty of the guards and SS overlords, the anguished guilt of the forgers who are given special treatment while their family and fellow-prisoners were randomly shot, beaten and starved, emerge those small acts of heroism: gestures of kindness, a whispered word or a telling look that meant another's survival. They made the viewing worthwhile.
In similar vein, this week I read 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink. The novel is restrained, understated and tragic. It deals with the experiences of a young man in post-war Germany, who is confronted in a SS war crimes trials with the brutal past of a woman with whom he was once in love. So doing he is also faced with his country's past and the questions that no one has ever been able to answer satisfactorily (at least, in my view).
Hardly Christmas entertainment but compelling viewing, compelling reading.
On a happier note, today is the first day of my annual leave! Hooray! And I am going to blog, blog, blog so keep your ears peeled. Yes, that's me standing at the front gate ringing the bell for a quick visit to your world!