Sophie Scholl - The Final Days
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THE TRUE STORY OF GERMANY'S MOST FAMOUS ANTI-NAZI HEROINE BROUGHT TO THRILLING, DRAMATIC LIFE.
Through its simplicity and scrupulous attention to historical detail, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days proves to be both thrillingly suspenseful and emotionally devastating. During the peak of the Third Reich, Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch, The Edukators), along with her brother Hans and other students in Munich, formed a resistance group called the White Rose and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets. Sophie Scholl begins on a crisp winter day, with Sophie and Hans distributing leaflets around the empty halls of a university before class is let out. The tension only increases as they are arrested, interrogated, and swiftly convicted in a brutal show trial. The heart of the film are the scenes between Sophie and her interrogator, Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held), a loyal Nazi who nonetheless respected and perhaps even admired Sophie. Their arguments, distilled down from hours of historical record, crackle with emotion and resonate throughout history, from Communist totalitarianism to the Bush administration condemning critics of the Iraq war as traitors. Jentsch's restrained performance only grows more and more moving over the movie's course. A deeply engaging and powerful movie. --Bret Fetzer
- "The Making of Sophie Scholl" hour-long documentary
- Thirteen deleted and alternate scenes
- Historical interviews about the real Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, including archival trial footage
- Insert featuring an interview with director Marc Rothemund
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Jordan was one Southerner who confronted the prevailing unchristian–but widely accepted–racism of his own time. Jordan’ words came to mind after viewing “Sophie Scholl–The Final Days.” This 2005 German film, winner of numerous awards, is presented with English subtitles.
“White Rose” was the name of the tiny resistance group that sprang up in Nazi Germany from June 1942 until February 1943. Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and a few others wrote and surreptitiously distributed six separate leaflets challenging the Third Reich and condemning Hitler’s war. They felt compelled to denounce the totalitarian system they lived under, even opposing their country’s armed forces–something almost suicidally hazardous as well as hugely unpopular.“It is a MORAL DUTY to put an end to this system,” proclaimed one leaflet. “We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will give you no rest.”
In their teen years, Sophie and Hans disappointed their parents by joining Nazi youth organizations and participating enthusiastically. Their father was a decent, stubborn, outspoken individualist who ran afoul of the New Order more than once. Their mother was a committed Christian. Over time, Sophie’s and Hans’ enchantment with National Socialism soured, repelled by its anti semitism, enforced conformity, and foreign aggression.
Then came the war crimes and genocide, secrets not well kept by German authority. Obedience, even acquiescence, became impossible for these few of the White Rose.
These mostly young people–Sophie was but 22, the others not much older–risked everything with their eyes wide open to what was at stake for them personally. “How can we expect righteousness to prevail,” Sophie wrote, “when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?” Students at Munich University, they were in the city which was the very birthplace of the National Socialist Movement.
Sophie and Hans were caught in the act of broadcasting their leaflets inside the University on the morning of February 18, 1943. Co-conspirator Christoph Probst was soon arrested as well. Interrogated by the Gestapo, charged with treason, tried, found guilty, and executed by beheading–the entire process took four days. Other arrests and punishments would come over the following months.
Accuracy in details and dialog make this film especially riveting. For the most part, the villains are not “Hollywood Nazis”; they come across as far more chilling without embellishment, sui generis. Sophie’s interrogation by agent Robert Mohr is virtually word-for-word, though of course condensed (the Staatspolizei kept meticulous transcripts). The antics of Roland Freisler, President of the People's Court, looks like a newsreel come to life. Even top hats worn by the stony-faced executioners are a genuine touch.
Sophie Scholl and her compatriots were not saying what most other Germans were thinking but merely afraid to express. That would be too facile, too comfortable, and would miss an important point. The very day of their arrest, Joseph Goebbels made the greatest speech of his career in Berlin’s Sportpalast, calling (post-Stalingrad) for “total war.” Goebbels’ asked, “Do you agree that anyone who goes against the war effort in any way should pay for it with his head?” His audience of 15,ooo screamed approval. Millions of patriotic Germans wholeheartedly agreed, fighting on for over two more years.
Today there are remembrances of Sophie and the White Rose all over Germany, and that’s as it should be. But opposing this particular evil isn’t costly anymore; that was another generation’s battle.
Without explicit intention, “Sophie Scholl–The Final Days” truly is a Christian film, far more compelling than most of that genre. This story has the authenticity that “faith-based” movies so often lack; as in real life, the good guys don’t always win, everybody doesn’t get saved in the final fifteen minutes. Christ-followers are called to be light and salt, radically different from society’s norms, obedient even when there’s great cost involved. Indeed, God may call some to martyrdom.
Her free choice is perhaps the greatest argument against a deterministic human nature that dooms us to live as our biology would have us live. Suffering torture and execution as so many of those who defied the Nazis did goes against all instincts toward pleasure and self-preservation. Sophie was not a depressed and hopeless young Nietzschean who was looking for a way out. Nor was she an advanced mystic who had been prepared through years of contemplative prayer to be a martyr. She was just an average young woman who loved music, art and life in general and instead, willingly chose to give all of that up to take a stand against evil. That makes her sacrifice all the more awe-inspiring. The Nazis showed us how monstrous human beings can become when they allow themselves to embrace evil little by little. People like Sophie show us what human beings can become when they embrace the highest good—standing up for truth at all costs.
Julia Jentsch as Sophie, and Alexander Held as Robert Mohr, the Nazi officer who cross-examines her, deliver finely nuanced performances. The narrowing of his eyes, the surreptitious wiping of her hands on her skirt...every move has its purpose; nothing is wasted. In one of the movie's most powerful scenes, when Sophie is alone in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror, although there are no words, but you know exactly what she is thinking, and exactly the kind of brave, dedicated, highly principled young woman she was. This, for me, set the tone for all that was to follow.
Please do yourself a favor and also watch Side 2 of the DVD, which details the making of the film, and features interviews with Sophie's sister, and others who knew her.
Hopefully, this review will persuade at least one other person to watch this brilliant and breathtaking film. I so wish I could have known the real Sophie
Scholl, but this movie brings her to life. I am grateful that she, and her principles, could live on in this way. This award-winner is a true classic.