Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: October 2007

It has to stressed again and again: Austrian Stefan Ruzowitzky ( is a damn genius, and he has proven it with the amazing masterpiece "Die Siebtelbauern" (1998, The Inheritors, He brough the strange German-language genre of "Heimatfilm" (killed by "Sissy", into a context where it had a chance of surviving, and enabled followers to find interest for their respective interpretation of the bavarian or Austrian home area. By today, there appears to be a new tradition of dealing with very local topics and making use of the local romanticism, which also has its rough edges and often is very cruel.

"The Counterfeiters" is no Heimatfil as such, because the characters’ environment is most definitely their home turf and the "normal madness" of local life is absent because normality is absent in a concentration camp. What reminds of the previous films, however, is the director’s and production designer’s and photographer’s sense for naturalness: the colours, the faces, the manners, the sayings are all very non-pathetic, very non-over-the-top, very "normal" in the sense that this is a very credible performance of the recurring concentration camp theme. And then there is the little absurd fact that the script is based on a real-life story, which is not necessary to know while watching the film, but which adds to that feeling of naturalism, of course. Maybe cruel absurdity was one of the dominating factors in Nazi Germany? Particularly well-done is a scene where the "Counterfeiters" (concentration camp prisoners themselves) get threatened by some fellwo prisoners from a less privileged part of the camp, who have every right to believe that those well-fed and clothed guys cannot be prisoners by any means, but must be SS. Very good film, some acting flaws can be forgiven.

In a word: the much more entertaining piece of trash in comparison to its Grindhouse brother. It has a decent and sophisticated plot (green gas erupting out of a military container turns humans into ravaging puss bubbles), subplots of deep humanity (will JT get the recipe for his award-winning barbecue sauce right before eaten alive?), actors of international esteem (Sahid the Torture Iraqi of Island Lost – minus head), and a satisfying amount of severed limps and other body parts (Tarantino losing his balls – how prophetic can a movie be?!). The only downside is that Bruce Willis does not wear a sleevless short and does hardly ever lie on the side shooting from two pistols like a one-man army. But not every film can have that, I suppose. The DVD has two additional soundtracks of interest: Rodriguez’ commentary (surprisingly sober), and (supposedly) the audience reactions of a test screening audience. Worth checking out – I love listening to audio commenaries when going to bed, lulls me into nice dreams.

More out of collector’s urge than because of the suspected merits of the film (will go down rather unnoticed even within Romero’s Oeuvre), and maybe inspired by the stories about the other pseudonym the King family is currently playing around with, Joe Hill, I decided to fill in a blank on second-grade films based on King books. Second-grade, indeed, even though one has to admit that the actor (Timothy Hutton, isn’t half bad – and in particular when he is doing his Elvis-with-killer-instinct impersonation, that’s quite creepy.

The flaws of the book are still around: those stupid little sparrows, in particular, that do not make for Hitchcockian thrill or Jacksonian chill – but just a bit of birdshit all over the story. It comes down to the fact that when authors want to tell a story that is too much interwoven with their real life, I usually bet money on the result being a bit … dull. That applies to the book and the film, with particular shortcomings in the film in the area of the make up artists, who supposedly just re-animated (haha…) the narrator skeleton from "Skeleton Crew" for the final scene in which the sparrows do away with the villain. The question of how to make good films from Stephen King’s books remains an enigma to the Los Angeles producers, but watching this one helps a good way to explain that enigma.

The film is about John Cusack, and that’s the good thing about it. The story is not really one of the stories around which you would expect some big-style movie, but as necessary with this kind of adaptation, the screenwriters took liberties and that’s to the benefit of the film. The plot runs you through all kinds of standard openings, standard interim resolutions, standard frights and standard dramas – only to take another twist here or there that is not so very standard, or to be more consequent in spinning the tale than you would expect the average Hollywood produce to be. I saw that there is an alternative ending on some DVD edition, and that shoyuld be interesting, because the ending I saw was one of many conceivable. And the very final shot was pretty lame Hollywood nonsense, to be honest, with a bit of a pretentious whiff when the authors thought they were Kubrick. They are not, of course, but before better ones come along, 1408 is very suitable to bridge the time. Surely one of the better horror films I’ve seen in the last … 10 years? There is actually a little crisis in the market, as I see it: if you don’t slash or poke or torture people, there is little room for real nice ghost story movies. A shame, actually.

%d bloggers like this: