Based on a true story, Maggie Peren’s “The Forger” follows the young man’s quiet, reluctant journey into heroism. He never meets with most of the over 300 people he saves, nor does he seem particularly motivated to do the work for a grander purpose. It’s a job, and it helps him get paid in ration cards, which he then uses to court a young woman who calls herself Gerda (Luna Wedler)—but that’s not her real name. She is also keeping secrets, like a fiancee out at the front, but who needs to date other men like Cioma to survive.
Peren, who wrote and directed “The Forger,” subtly draws out these conflicted characters one by one. Det, who initially comes across like a soft-spoken tailor, finds a lifeline through the women in the market, and his connections are able to make ends meet here and there. Frau Peters makes her no-nonsense personality known early, but later shows a deeper sense of internal turmoil over everything that’s happening. Not everyone is as they originally seem—except the Nazi officials, what you see is what you get with them.
But no one quite undergoes a transformation like Cioma. Forgery appears to embolden Cioma to take on different personalities, better to blend in and avoid suspicion in broad daylight if he acts like he belongs in Nazi Germany. He takes public transportation at daytime, goes out to party at night dressed as a naval officer, and talks back to Germans if it means throwing them off his case. It’s a bold game of bluff, and it intensifies the movie’s suspense. Will he be able to talk his way out of this one? How much longer can his nerves withstand the pressure before he too will need to forge his own way out? Thankfully, Louis Hofmann is a charming lead, with the charisma to change gears mid-scene, alter his tone and body language within the same breath. When things inevitably get dark, he’s able to carry the film using his expressive eyes, bringing to the screen a character who looks as if he’s seen too much in his young life.