The forger / Der Passfälscher (Berlinale review)

The forger / Der Passfälscher (Berlinale review)

Berlin, 1942. A young Jewish man, Cioma Schönhaus, refuses to let the Nazis take away his love of life. When he discovers his talent for forging documents – especially passports – he sees this as the ideal way to help not only himself but also others escape deportation. Thanks to his knack for creating new identities, he dares to venture out of hiding and navigates round the authorities with inventiveness and charm. He and his friends Det and Gerda are hiding in plain sight. Cioma even catches a fragile glimpse of love in seemingly hopeless times.

Maggie Peren writes and directs this film based on a true story. The well-known from Netflix’s Dark series Louis Hofmann holds the main role, that he is a young man full of life and smile. He smiles when he pretends to be a navy officer and meets women, he smiles when he fakes a sickness at work, smiles when he forges the passes. In fact this smile is probably one of the problems of the film, because is another thing to try to stay positive, and another to be happy when tragic things happen to people next to you. I am not sure how much of the story was fictionalized and how much was actually true. In any case the protagonists’ tricks and forges are fun to watch and take him to a status of the master of deception. But on the other hand, we should bear in mind, that this character lives in 1942-3 Germany, so a significant part of the cons he runs are just not believable as a real event and totally seen as exaggerations for the dramatization.

The yound talented actors like apart from Hofmann include Jonathan Berlin and Luna Wedler, and they all do a fine job, in an otherwise problematic film. Who knows, maybe the World War two dramas have reached the point of telling every interesting story. Or this one could have been implemented to be a better film.

Grade 1.5 / 5

by Maggie Peren
with Louis Hofmann, Jonathan Berlin, Luna Wedler, Nina Gummich, André Jung
Germany / Luxembourg 2022
German, Subtitles: English

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