THE TRUE STORY OF A YOUNG WOMAN WHO DID WHAT FEW IN NAZI GERMANY DARED EVEN THINK.
Murdering a young woman whose only crime was to distribute pamphlets against the regime came easily to the Nazis. Sophie Scholl was just another “enemy of the state” to eradicate. But after the fall of the Third Reich, her execution came to be seen as a particularly vile crime. Today, Sophie Scholl is a national hero who gave up her life for the people of Germany. It’s ironic that she was judged by something called “the People’s Court”.
There have been several films about Scholl, perhaps the most famous one being Michael Verhoeven’s The White Rose (1983). The excuse for making yet another one was that original Gestapo papers detailing the interrogation of Scholl had been found after the fall of East Germany. The film begins in 1943 with Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) working with other members of the resistance movement The White Rose manufacturing leaflets with propaganda against the Nazi regime. The following day, the Scholl siblings go to Munich University where they distribute the leaflets near doors in the main building, hoping as many students as possible get to read them once classes are dismissed.
They are however caught by a janitor and the authorities are quickly called to the university. Hans and Sophie are taken to Stadelheim Prison where Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held) of the Gestapo begins interrogating Sophie. She has good answers for every one of Mohr’s questions and looks set to be released. Then Mohr digs a little deeper and comes up with fresh, real evidence against Sophie. She decides to confess, but her courage begins to affect Mohr…
Sterile prison sets
This is pretty matter-of-fact stuff (shot mostly in sterile prison sets), beginning with the “crime”, continuing with the interrogation and the trial and ending with the execution of Sophie, her brother and their collaborator Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter). The scenes between Sophie and Mohr stay true to the written protocol and are therefore fascinating to watch, especially when the two participants discuss politics. Mohr is a loyal Nazi, brainwashed but also seemingly ignorant of the extent of the Holocaust. Held plays him as a cold man who shows discreet signs of being impressed by the young girl who doesn’t give up on her convictions. He does his best to make her show regret and blame the treason on the others, but she refuses; there’s a highly symbolic scene where Mohr ends the interrogation by literally washing his hands.
It is easy to think of Sophie as a Christ figure who sacrifices herself for mankind; she firmly believes that her parents and brother will unite with her in heaven. Jentsch is very moving as the brave girl and she even looks a lot like the real Sophie Scholl. We do get an idea of what Sophie believed in and how she functioned, how much she dreamed of an Allied victory; there’s even a scene where she looks admiringly up in the sky as Allied planes bomb Munich.
André Hennicke virtually foams at the mouth as the judge at the trial, Roland Freisler. Then again, Freisler was indeed a disgusting human being who was primarily responsible for nazifying laws in the Third Reich. The shameful proceedings during the Scholl trial truly makes one’s blood boil.
The final sequence is brutal in all its injustice, but one can take comfort in the fact that judge Freisler got his punishment soon enough. On February 3, 1945, Allied warplanes dropped 3,000 ton bombs on Berlin, killing among others Freisler in his courtroom.
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days 2005-Germany. 117 min. Color. Produced by Fred Breinersdorfer, Sven Burgemeister, Christoph Müller, Marc Rothemund. Directed by Marc Rothemund. Screenplay: Fred Breinersdorfer. Cast: Julia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl), Fabian Hinrichs (Hans Scholl), Gerald Alexander Held (Robert Mohr), Johanna Gastdorf, André Hennicke, Florian Stetter.
Trivia: Original title: Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage.
Berlin: Best Director, Actress (Jentsch). European Film Awards: Best Actress (Jentsch).
Last word: “It was such a moving story, a real story, a part of our history and also to do it in Munich. It was great for me because at that time I lived there but did not know the city. I did not feel so at home. To work in different places in the city and to know a story, which took place there really made something and made me get another feeling to the city.” (Jentsch, Vivamost)