BERLIN -- Taking advantage of the discovery of long buried documents in old East German archives and recent interviews with witnesses or relatives and friends of those involved in the historical episode, the makers of Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days
provide a clear and compelling account of the last six days in the life of Sophie Scholl
, a resister of the Nazi regime in Germany in 1943. The movie is understandably static as the guts of the film are Sophie's interrogations by Gestapo officer Robert Mohr. But it's static electricity. The film has a jumpy, nervous energy as the two verbally dual over matters of life and death.
Rock solid performances by up-and-coming German actress Julia Jentsch
as Sophie and Alexander Held (Downfall
) as Mohr along with an excellent cast of supporting players insure that no one mistakes this for a lifeless docu-drama. Sophie Scholl
will have its largest impact, of course, in German-speaking territories. But with interest in that era recently sparked by Downfall
, the film could get picked up in many other territories.
Sophie may be a major heroine in German history, but Jentsch plays her for what she was -- an ordinary young woman who in extraordinary times finds the courage to do what is right. She and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs
) are members of the White Rose
resistance, a group portrayed in other German films, most notably Michael Verhoeven
's The White Rose
. A foolish decision to smuggle anti-Nazi leaflets into Munich University and secretly distribute them while classes are in session results in the arrest of Sophie and Hans on February 18, 1943.
Director Marc Rothemund
and his frequent collaborator, writer Fred Breinersdorfer
, then let events speak for themselves. Separated from the others, Sophie is grilled by Mohr for hours. Initially, she denies involvement and is so convincing she is nearly released. Then comes damning evidence found in a search of the siblings' apartment. When Sophie sees her brother's confession, she too admits guilt -- and does so with pride.
Now comes Sophie's verbal dance with Mohr to protect friends and fellow collaborators. Later, Mohr offers Sophie a chance to get a milder sentence at the price of renouncing her ideals. She refuses. But the most interesting part of the interrogation comes when these two debate the goals and methods of the Nazi government and the question of how posterity will remember their differing points of view.
Mohr is a long time interrogator. His interest lies in upholding the law and not who wrote the law or whether it has anything to do with justice. Sophie contends that there is a thing called right and wrong that is separate from what any particular law says.
Mohr was a man who in 1943 must have known how badly things were going in the war -- which is the major point of the students' leaflets -- as well as being aware of the heinous deeds in the Nazi's rule. Held's Mohr never equivocates or concedes any of Sophie's points. Yet he develops a grudging admiration for her and struggles to answer some points.
Certainly, his offer to save her neck is curious if he truly believes what he says he does. It may be his final, futile attempt to win the argument. And herein lies the dramatic and moral value of the movie: Their argument transcends the Nazi era. It looks to civil courage, a thing in short supply even today.
Rothemund keeps sets, costumes and camerawork simple so the greater concentration is on his actors and the play of words. He and Breinersdorfer refuse to sentimentalize any of Sophie's decisions over these few days. But they do see her battle against tyranny as a dramatic assertion of human beings' desire for freedom no matter what the cost.
SOPHIE SCHOLL -- THE FINAL DAYS
Bavaria Films International presents a Goldkind Film and Broth Film production
Director: Marc Rothemund
Writer: Fred Breinersdorfer
Producers: Christoph Mueller, Sven Burgemeister
, Fred Breinersdorfer
, Marc Rotheremund
Director of photography: Martin Langer
Production designer: Jana Karen
Music: Johnny Klimek
, Reinhold Heil
Costumes: Natascha Nesslauer
Editor: Hans Funck.
Cast: Sophie Scholl: Julia Jentsch
Robert Mohr: Alexander Hold
Hans Scholl: Fabian Hinrichs
Else Gebel: Johanna Gastdort
Dr. Freisier: Andre Hennicke
Christoph Pobst: Florian Stetter
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 120 minutes