Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
104 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
A finely accurate, touching story
asporner23 February 2005
As this is more of a history film, I will write this review based on the historical aspect of the film and not so much about the acting. However it goes without saying that the acting and handling of the camera was nothing less than superlative! By watching the film you really have the impression of being there at that time.

This film details the last six days of the primary members of a resistance group called the White Rose. The White Rose was an organization of students, mainly around Munich, during the years 1942-1943, though there were fringe elements that eluded capture by the authorities that survived until the end of the war. Many of those survivors contribute to this story.

There are two other films about the group. The main one was a film called "The White Rose". It can be found described here in IMDb. It recounts the complete story of the group. The other was Fünf Letzte Tage (The five last days), which deals with Sophie's last five days. Both of these movies were released in 1982 and the same actress (Lena Stolze) plays Sophie Scholl.

This current film is an amalgamation of the two films with some expansion to the story. More information since the original two films, released in 1982, was subsequently available.

I have studied the story of this group at some length and find the historical aspects of this film track very well with a few notable exceptions. First, at one point when Sophie learns that Christoph Probst was also implicated (she and Hans tried to take all the blame to avoid others from being drawn in) historical accounts say she was shaken to her core and she screams. In the movie however it hardly phases her, she only screams later after the meeting with her parents. I suppose this was done to increase the theatrical value by the placement.

The other is that Police Commissioner Mohr is painted slightly darker than in real life. According to Else Gebel he came back from the prison "white as chalk". She asks if they will die and he only nods shaken from the experience. Else asks how she took it. He replies that she was very brave." He then said, "Keep her in your thoughts in the next half an hour. By that time she will reach the end of her suffering.".

However despite this I thought it was a fantastic film, and probable to date the best one on the subject. There have been a recent wave of films coming from the Bavaria Film Studios, "Der Untergang", "Napola" and this film, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. It has been suggested in some circles that this is an attempt to whitewash, I disagree. Until 1994 when I made a visit to Tuebingen and saw some graffiti, I never heard of the White Rose (I am an American). In fact I didn't even know there WAS a German resistance. So I think this about time that this is also given it's place in history along side of the other aspects. In every age there is always a resistance element -- even in our own day. So why should this be such a surprise?

I hope that those who see this film enjoy it as I have. I give it nine stars!
163 out of 180 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Heroism to respect and cherish
keith-farman-11 February 2006
True heroism, like martyrdom, must be imposed by fate, not sought. This is a profound moral principle that exercised Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim. Again, Robert Bolt's Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons does everything he can to avoid his looming martyrdom - except sacrifice his conscience and moral identity.

This is not the only moral concept within this quiet, dignified, deeply moving German film, that resonates with significance for today's world. Much literature and most films, portray heroism as dramatic, with feats of daring and thrilling actions. This finely judged, beautifully played little film shows us heroism of a different kind: an unshakeable belief in justice, loyalty to personal conscience, and conviction unto death of the reality of the idea of freedom.

The story of the events leading up to the actual execution in 1943, of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and friend Christoph Probst, is horrifying for the sheer banality of their offence. As members of a student group, the White Rose, they were secretly distributing pamphlets daring to question Hitler's conduct of the war and the likelihood of victory. On discovery they are drawn into a process with none of the strutting, grandiose black clad villains so beloved of decades of British and American movies. Like someone standing too close to a dangerous machine, they are caught by a tiny thread of circumstance and increasingly dragged deeper and deeper into its destructive mechanism.

Each meticulous step in their tragedy is efficiently recorded, documented and processed with a detached calm that makes one shudder when one recalls the sheer bureaucratic efficiency with which the same machine disposed of 6 million Jews, Gypsies, and other selected groups of human beings. It is enormously affecting that three of the brightest and best of German youth are subjected to the same fate because of their refusal to conform to a corrupted nationalism and a cowed people. Perhaps because it suggests that the collective insanity that was Germany in the 30's and 40's was not a uniquely German phenomenon but one to which any society might succumb if the voice of justice is silenced, the rule of law subverted and fear becomes the currency of social life. Another conventional and comfortable fiction of British and American movies cast in doubt. And a thought for today.

The moral and dramatic heart of this absorbing film is in Sophie's extended interrogation by Mohr (Gerald Held), one time rural policeman now grateful to the Reich for his elevation to interrogator with the power of life or death over his prisoners. Mohr looks more like a stern Bank Manager unconvinced by a cash-flow projection than a leering, jack-booted man in black with silver lightning flashes. A father himself, he clearly finds Sophie's moral conviction and stubborn resistance disturbing. He can relate to her intelligence, her attractiveness, determination and self-destructive honesty. Everything except her moral condemnation of Hitler and the Reich. Mohr is like someone who knows the emperor is naked but is shocked when someone says it out loud. The acting in these scenes is simply superb, we see Sophie's sheer naked courage and idealistic conviction shake Mohr's blind unquestioning conformity. Only to be retrenched behind blank, dead, unthinking eyes.

The excellent Julia Jentsch (The Edukators and Downfall) plays brilliantly the intelligent, idealistic Sophie with her absolute commitment to justice and freedom. She moves towards her death through a system reminiscent of a strictly run, aseptic hospital. And at every step of the way, we see ordinary people, trapped in a nightmare they can see but not change. Each finds a way to show Sophie their empathy; from the communist prisoner staying alive by working for her jailors to the warderess who bends the rules to allow the three condemned young people a final cigarette and hug of comfort before their execution.

A great strength of the movie is that Sophie's religious faith is shown but left entirely personal. Both in her interrogation and sham trial, she appeals to moral principle and humanity not religious belief, in her defence of freedom and her refusal to be silent in the face of injustice.

This film is as unsettling as it is moving. It makes one ask - how many of us in similar circumstances, would have the courage to stand against the sheer weight of social conformity reinforced by an atmosphere of fear and an implacable application of lethal power? Heroism indeed, serving a belief in the ultimate right to personal conscience and the indestructibility of the idea of freedom in justice. The intensely moving photographs of the real Sophie Scholl and White Rose group that close the film give them a final victory over their oppressors. Sixty years after their deaths, their story is told and their memory cherished. It is fitting that such heroism be recognised. If you can seek this one out don't miss it. Inspirational.

zettel
98 out of 109 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
How would YOU make Sophie Scholl?
avidadollars23 October 2005
As a person who spent many years 'making art', I could not be more amazed reading some of the comments. I've just been to a preview of Sophie Scholl in Manchester, England; and I am not only glad that this movie has been made, but also that it is done at the time when young people are happier to do 'whatever' rather than have any principles.

There is no point debating historical accuracy. As it followed from the Q&A session with Marc Rothemund following the preview, not only the filming took place at the original locations that are still there, but the crew went at great length doing things 'right', including getting the weather reports for February 1943. Yes, there is this strange feeling of looking at the film's title, which sounds like the title for a documentary. But then I didn't gather the impression that Rothemund's goal was to poeticise the story of Sophie Scholl. I think it is quite enough that in Germany she is perceived as a martyr. What Sophie Scholl - Die Letzten Tage does successfully is it shows a person behind the image, a young girl (younger than myself), who was prepared to die for her idea, but desperately loved life.

I read critical comments, and mine was in part sparked by them. Far from trying to debate their correctness, I'll do exactly what I always do on these occasions. Guys, those of you who decide to write next dismissive drag, instead tell us how you would direct in Rothemund's place. Or how would you act in place of Julia Jentsch? If you have really valid suggestions, we'll all be happy to hear.
117 out of 136 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Courage
jotix1002 March 2006
Sophie Scholl, at one point of her trial, tells the judge and his cronies, as well as the audience of cowards attending the proceedings, that soon they all will be seating in the place she is now occupying. History proved her right as most of the same people that condemned her for treason were proved to be the real traitors.

Marc Rothemund, the director, working on Fred Beinersdorfer's screen play, presents us with a courageous figure, Sophie Scholl, who saw the atrocities the Third Reich was doing to her country and dared to speak about it when confronted by the regime.

Sophie was part of the student's organization, White Rose, that wanted to inform the German people about facts that were never challenged by anyone because of the consequences such action would mean for whoever spoke the truth. Sophie and her brother were instrumental for several pamphlets informing the population about things that the regime's propaganda didn't tell the German people. Sophie mentioned the unmentionable, the extermination of the Jews, and even the elimination of sick children by people gone mad.

The main part of the film involves the interrogation Robert Mohr subjects Sophie as soon as she is arrested. In their exchange Sophie shows an amazing courage and never is seen as being scared of what will happen to her. After she admits to the charges, even Mohr seems to be amazed by her intelligence and resolve.

Julia Jentsch is the main reason for seeing this movie. Ms. Jentsch gives a luminous performance as the woman who challenged the higher ups in charge of her country. Gerald Alexander Held, who is seen as Robert Mohr, makes an impression as the man who questions Sophie's motives and tries to break her spirit. Johanna Gastdorf is seen as the kind Else, who shares a cell with Sophie.

"Sophie Scholl" is an intelligent film that shows a talented director, Marc Rothemund, and a bright young star of the German cinema, Julia Jentsch, in a film about courage and decency during a crazy time where all hope seemed to have disappeared from Germany.
53 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Truly Moving Picture
tollini14 February 2006
I saw this film on February 14th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival that screens films for their Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "…explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.

The place and time are Nazi Germany of 1942-43. Germany is starting to have serious war setbacks like their huge loss and immense casualties at Stalingrad, and the allies, consisting of England, the United States, and Russia, are united in the destruction of the Third Reich. Within Germany, the opposition to Hitler, the Gestapo, and fascism is laughably small. Students with mimeograph machines try to educate and motivate other students to rally and protest. These students have to do this clandestinely because their activities are considered high treason and there is no freedom of speech or assembly.

Sophie Scholl and her older brother Hans are caught distributing subversive, anti-Hitler literature. The film focuses on the 21 year old Sophie, and she is NOT the weaker sex. She is interrogated for days and she is a spectrum of people far beyond her years; i.e., young, afraid, conniving, brave, docile, belligerent, religious, tough, tender, mature, etc.

The film is shot in color, but the color is heavily muted and it looks almost black and white. That is appropriate because the film plays as much as a documentary and as it does as a fictional drama. In fact, this story is based on a true story.

We live in a time when the head of Iran thinks the Holocaust didn't happen. It is moving to see that at least some young people in Germany during World War II were ashamed and disgusted by their country's murder of Jews, the mentally ill, gypsies, and women and children of occupied countries.

Sophie's religious beliefs were inspiring. She did not blame her God and she did not feel forsaken. God was simply her strength that she humbly called upon when she needed it most.

This film appears to have been made with a low budget. But, the impact is as powerful as large-budgeted films with similar themes like "Schindler's List" and "A Man For All Seasons." It has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Picture this year. And…it deserves the nomination.

FYI – There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
81 out of 96 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Dramatic Reconstruction of Historical Events
coyets18 May 2005
This film is not about the „Weisse Rose" (White Rose) resistance group, nor is it about Sophie Scholl. It sticks very closely to its title, and only deals with the last days of Sophie Scholl. Having staked out such a narrow subject, Marc Rothemund is able to narrate the story in great detail. This allows the use of pauses in the dialogue which add to the credibility and drama. I read the official version of the interrogation before seeing the film, and felt that a very good effort had been made to reconstruct what may have actually happened. I also felt that the atmosphere which the film conveyed to be entirely plausible for that time, which I am not old enough to have lived through. For instance, the characters always seemed to be holding back, and not opening their feelings to each other.

Because the official version of the interrogation was dictated by Robert Mohr, it is certain to contain many gaps, such as the lines of questioning before reaching Sophie Scholl's quoted replies. The film may have tended to be too dramatic in filling those gaps. It was surely too dramatic in showing so many chance encounters in the various corridors. Perhaps this tendency to over-dramatise was necessary to present the otherwise rather dry historical events. At least the final result was almost believable, in contrast to many films about the past, and it was an improvement on earlier films covering the White Rose, simply because so much more has come to light since they were made.

This is one of the best dramatic reconstructions of historical events that I have seen.
59 out of 69 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Very convincing presentation of German history
mute_e1 March 2005
OK, first of all. This movie is absolutely not like "the Downfall" (Der Untergang). Sophie Scholl is way more demanding and exacting. Now, 3 days after I've seen this movie, I still got a feeling of guilt and concernment in my stomach. In my opinion Sophie Scholl is due to its precision more like a (replayed) documentary movie than a Drama, which makes it even more "shocking". This is for sure no light entertainment, and those, that don't like long conversations or even are not interested in history, should not watch this movie. This is the main reason, why Sophie Scholl won't make the transatlantic heap, because it's too "special". It's a part of German history and requires a willingness to cope with it.

Marc Rothemund does a very good job on directing this movie, and Julia Jentsch is very convincing. While watching this movie you don't have the feeling that the story is 60 years ago and can't touch you. It makes you feel like you're in the thick of it. And that's why I give a 9/10. Great Movie.
98 out of 119 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Bravery to death
stensson3 September 2005
German film is on its way again and this is another example. Sophie Scholl was a member of the White Rose, who distributed pamphlets against Hitler at the Munich university in 1943. That was of course suicide. Gestapo got them.

This is not only a recapitulation. Far from it. There is also a small but strong mini drama between Scholl and the Gestapo interrogator and despite the situation and what in the end can't be avoided, it's not clear who really wins that battle.

Very good acting by Julia Jentsch and Gerald Alexander Held here. A real nightmare and a perverse situation, but still taken out of life. This is not only drama. It is also possible.
44 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Not just a historical reconstruction
Stanislas Lefort1 May 2005
The story of one of the rare opposition movements in Germany during World War II, entitled The White Rose. The story traces the last days of Sophie Scholl, whose moral stature and courage are admirably brought to life. As far as the script, I'll remember more than anything the extraordinarily intelligent dialog between the main character and the policeman interrogating her. This film isn't just a historical reconstruction; it's also a plea against the fanaticism and right-wing extremism against which not only German-speaking countries have to fight. In this sense, this short episode (four days) about life in Munich in February 1943 takes on a universal dimension.
47 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Sophie Scholl: A Very Special Young Woman
bsaines200015 April 2006
I was so deeply touched by the life of a very courageous young German woman. Together with her brother and other Munich University students they proceeded to become true resisters of Hitler and the Third Reich. Through intense interrogation and ultimately her trial before the infamous and evil Roland Freisler, Sophie Scholl refused to compromise her stand against one of the most evil empires the world has ever known. In the end, Sophie, her brother and fellow students paid the price with their young lives. Growing up as Jew I always thought there must be people like the Scholls in the midst of Nazi cruelty. I have read about many other Germans since and have been deeply moved by their will to resist under the most difficult circumstances. The movie gripped my emotions so deeply, that at the end I began to cry as my heart went out to this precious young life. I would only hope that my own daughter would grow into the character of a woman like Sophie Scholl. This movie is not to be missed!
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
The film concerns on the students Resistance by the ¨White Rose¨ with the brothers Sophie and Hans Scholl
ma-cortes5 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The film is correctly based on true events and interviews with witness. The picture is excellently played by a magnificent though unknown plethora of German actors as Julia Jentsch(The downfall),Fabian Hinrichs and Alexander Held(The list Schlinder) .It's one of the films that nowadays deal to describe the Nazi time from a German point of sight, such as : Stauffemberg and The Downfall. The motion picture was nominated for Academy Award to the best film in language no English.Besides obtained prize in Berlin to the best actress(Jentsch) and the best director(Marc Rothemund) and European Academy prize to the best actress and the best director.

The real deeds are the following : The brothers Sophie(Julia Jentsch) and Hans Scholl(Fabian Hinrichs) were a martyrs of the anti-Nazi movement.Both became students at the University of Munich,where the movement for a revolt against Hitler was especially pronounced.Hans was a medical student and Sophie majored in Biology.Encouraged by Dr Kurt Huber, a teacher of philosophy,they were instrumental in organizing a resistance group known as the ¨White Rose¨, a organization of students oppose to Hitler and the Nazi regime.It propose ¨to knock down the iron wall of fear and terror¨and ¨To strive for the renewal of the mortally wounded German spirit ¨.They kept in close touch with similar groups of students at other universities.Using small duplicating machines,the students(among others Florian Stetter played by Christoph Probst) defied an enormously powerful state apparatus.The password White Rose was designed to symbolize a Christian spirit which love everything that was beautiful and noble and opposed the dictatorship of evil in National Socialist Germany.In mid-1943,the brothers,helped by others students,took part in a demonstration on the streets of Munich,the first protest of its kind.They also dropped leaflets from balcony of the University's inner court.The professor Kurt Huber drafted a leaflet that was scattered and said : ¨In the name of German youth we demand of Hitler that he return to us the personal freedom which is the most valuable possession of each German,and of which he has cheated us in the lowest possible manner ¨.The Scholls were reported to the Gestapo about the handbills by a building superintendent.Both were arrested,along with four others ,and brought before the People's Court.After a hasty trial the Scholls were sentenced to death. Sophie appeared in court with a broken leg ,resulting from her interrogation by Gestapo agents(an inquisitive inspector well interpreted by Alexander Held).She hobbled to her death on the scaffold,his brother Hans was executed the same day.The brothers along with the professor Kurt Huber were beheaded.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Idealism and Courage
claudio_carvalho22 March 2012
In 1943, in Munich, the siblings Sophie Magdalena Scholl (Julia Jentsch) and Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs) distribute anti-Nazi pamphlets in the University of Munich. However, they are arrested by the Gestapo and Sophie is interrogated by Robert Mohr (Alexander Held).

Sophie becomes loyal to her ideal and to her comrades of The White Rose resistance group and pleads guilty of all charges to save them. In a couple of days, she is judged by a Nazi court with her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter ) and they are sentenced to death and beheaded.

"Sophie Scholl - Die Letzten Tage" recreates the last days of the twenty-one year-old Sophie Magdalena Scholl, who was a student of the University of Munich and leader of the Anti-Nazi resistance group The White Rose. This awarded film has great performances and direction, and the dialogs are awesome, specially the ideological discussion between Sophie and Mohr during the interrogation.

I am a big fan of German movies and for those who liked "Sophie Scholl - Die Letzten Tage", there is another good film about this resistance group named "Die Weiße Rose" (1982). My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Uma Mulher Contra Hitler" ("A Woman against Hitler")
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
a different Holocaust film
swensond-16 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a downer film (definitely not a date movie). It doesn't have a happy ending. It is about the history of the White Rose, a student group in WWII Germany who opposed Hitler's killing of Jews and the mentally-retarded, and they paid the ultimate price. The interrogation sequences are riveting...not only as drama, but also because the story begs the question of what we (Americans) might do if we had to oppose a homicidal government (I fear we would not do as well). Given the "Star Chamber" sets, the movie is surprisingly colorful with very good photography and excellent acting. The subtitles seemed transparent to me and there was no sense of the film being a documentary or conveying a message. Sophie Scholl and her companions were true heroes and ten or a hundred movies would not be enough to commemorate them. Nevertheless, this one movie is a first-rate drama and definitely worth a rent. It should be included in every school curriculum and should be purchased for home and re-viewing (part of my collection!).
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Good Movie!
imdbfriend12 November 2007
I usually like movies which are related to WW II, usually they are related to war, Jews or concentration camp, but very few movies deal with the ideology of general German people at that time, and that is one of the main reason why I liked this movie so much. It shows us that there were Germans who were against Hitler and who actually stood for their ideals. Coming to acting department everyone is very well placed in their roles, special mention must be made here for Julia who played Sophie, for she got to the skin of her character and she was able to take at least me to a journey of Sophie's mind and ideology and her pains. One of the best acting I have seen by female actor. The background music is top class, goes well with the moments of the movie. Direction too is very good. Overall a very good movie, a must watch for anyone who ever has a slightest doubt in his/her mind whether to stand for their rights or not and to fight for their ideologies or not. Stand for what is right.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A Very, Very Good Film
Guildfordian18 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was able to see this film at the Berlin Festival this week and I thought that it was a really, truly magnificent piece of work. It provoked a large applause after it had finished, however, I think that this may possibly have been a little bit of a German "pat on the back", i.e. we are doing what we can to purge the past. However, this does not detract from the film itself.

The acting was really very good and "Sophie" was certainly a very interesting character to play and was done very well. It is possible to see how, when and why decisions were made, which is all credit to the actress who played her.

The film, of course, deals with very difficult subjects, the show-trial, the tearing up of the truth, basic freedoms etc. and the film handles this very well. There is even time for some humour, two particular bits stick very much in mind, which I am sure any who watch it will agree. Moreover, these points of humour were needed to "lighted" the atmosphere, because it is a rather hard going subject! The police inspector did very well, and was a good little Nazi, the Führer would have been proud of him. But we are also lead perhaps to the possibility that some of the things that Sophie was saying to him may have actually gone in and that it was he, who arranged the final meeting of the condemned. Which is a touching part.

There were tears all around and there were few dry seats (especially with the final goodbye with the parents ("Ich bin stolz auf Euch", "I am proud of you both", really makes a lump come to one's throat!) however I think that we should not cry, nor feel sad, but carry on the torch that they lit further into the future and ensure that, though their lives may have ended, their idea has not.

I am sure that they did, indeed, all meet in eternity (Ewigkeit) And why not?
15 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Beliefs and Bravery
gradyharp4 December 2006
SOPHIE SCHOOL - THE FINAL DAYS is one of those films made more powerful by the understated production values. The script, yes, the story itself, is so powerful that it doesn't need big battle scenes or full-fledged staged crowd scenes to make it work: the dialogue among the actors speaks volumes.

Written by Fred Breinersdorfer based on documents from life and directed with enormous sensitivity by Marc Rothemund the film takes place in the last days of the lives of members of the anti-Nazi resistance movement The White Rose in 1943. Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) and their friend Christoph (Florian Stetter) are organizers for creating leaflets warning the populace of Germany of the ills ahead should Hitler and his Hessians remain in power. They are caught, imprisoned and interrogated. Sophie's interrogator Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held), though strong, does seem to understand Sophie's explanations for her denial of participation in the spreading of leaflets, but Sophie has the courage to speak out against the current government. Hans is likewise interrogated and when he confesses to the leaflet incident he is implicating both Sophie and Christoph and the three are brought before a vicious tribunal. Christoph pleads for his life and Sophie and Hans request that his life as a father be spared but the charges are made of iron and the three are convicted and immediately executed.

The fact that the story is true makes it all the more moving. Observing the inordinate amount of courage in standing firm for beliefs - especially in Sophie's case - is humbling for the viewer. How many of us, under similar circumstances would have that degree of conviction of ideals and bravery? The acting by everyone involved is first rate, with Julia Jentsch and Gerald Alexander Held being especially fine. The pacing, scoring, lighting and direction of this film are keyed to the atmosphere of the times in 1943 Germany, creating a sense of claustrophobia in the visual and the emotional aspects of the film. It is a brilliant work and deserves a very wide audience. In German with English subtitles. Grady Harp
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Docu-Drama Re-Enactments Find Universal Heart and Soul
noralee3 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage)" feels more like a docu-drama recreation from the History Channel than a film.

There are a few scenes that rise above the meticulous use of newly uncovered documents, which are extensively listed in the credits, to find the people behind the words and situations, and those scenes are quite involving.

Perhaps writer Fred Breinersdorfer and director Marc Rothemund just assume viewers have already seen Michael Verhoeven's 1982 film "The White Rose (Die Weiße Rose)", which I haven't, as little background is provided before we are thrust into the students' clandestine newsletter production. It even took me awhile to figure out that Julia Jentsch and Fabian Hinrichs were playing siblings not romantic partners.

By the time of their furtive distribution at their college campus I was hooked, mostly through the suspenseful directing, including the excellent use of the same building in Munich where the original protest took place, up and up then down stairs under a dizzying classical dome. How fortuitous circumstances get them caught is very tense, even though you know what will happen.

The exact details of their capture is a profound lesson in how a totalitarian state operates through the scary cooperation (some would say co-optation) of its citizens. Individuals versus a totalitarian state is much more emphasized throughout the film than against Naziism specifically.

As a German film that seems more aimed at a domestic audience than an international one, interesting emphases are made about the protesters that I have not seen made clear in other films that included any resistance. The students articulate first and most vociferously that they are anti Hitler's "Total War", particularly after the disaster at Stalingrad, which these medical students witnessed due to compulsory medic service, more than any other aspect of Nazi policies. Their youthful anti-war remonstrances do sound universal- and would be treasonous to any imperialist war-monging government. But they also tell of eyewitness accounts of SS brutalities from the front, as well as Jewish neighbors' disappearances, that intriguingly bely the usual "we didn't know" excuses of the traditional "good German."

The film also emphasizes their strong Protestant religious beliefs in contrast to the Nazis, and I was surprised there was a chaplain in their prison. I had thought the parallel Communist cell-mate was a stiff contrivance to emphasize for the former East German audience how the Communists were an anti-Nazi force, but evidently the character was based on a real person whose remembrances were used for the film.

The core of the film and the most fascinating is Sophie's series of interrogations by Robert Mohr (a terrific Gerald Alexander Held in a subtly complex performance). Not only is this based on recently recovered transcripts, but also on interviews with Mohr's relatives that uncovered the person behind the functionary. This could have been a scene we've seen many times in either World War II or sci fi or other representations of fictional totalitarian enforcers, let alone many cop shows.

Held's Mohr at first is as much a detective effectively building a case through the accumulation of evidence and eventually confession as in fictional cops played by Kyra Sedwick in "The Closer" or Andre Braugher in "Homicide". It is only as he keeps up the interrogation that you see him sense that this is no longer just a job that he's had for many years but that the system he has succeeded in as a good bureaucrat has changed in a profound way. He becomes a paternal human being.

At first Sophie just seems like the bravura very young woman she is, caught in foolish lies that are no match for "CSI"-like forensics (though it is a bit confusing that we don't see any of her brother's interrogation) as she desperately tries to avoid incriminating anyone else. Then Jentsch's performance rises to an extraordinary level and she seems to be channeling the past and the future, as if she's vocalizing that single protester in front of the tanks at Tian'anmen Square in 1989 as much as a February day in 1943. Jentsch was wonderful in "The Edukators (Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei)" but here she grows into a stirring adult in what could have been a very static situation.

The show trial, in the same hall of "justice," is such a farce that it is hard to believe it is accurately portrayed, even as based on transcripts and that it was intended for theatrical propaganda purposes. André Hennicke plays the judge, Richter Dr. Roland Freisler, like a broad martinet, but his oratorical style isn't that different from Joseph Goebbels' that we've seen in newsreels, so maybe it is an accurate representation.

The passionate speeches that each defendant delivers covers a different aspect of the sources of their protest that is quite revealing about the reasons behind the resistance. Their articulateness keeps these scenes from just being melodramatic.

The English subtitles are commendably large, but are irritatingly white on white such that us unilinguals have to infer the final verdict because we certainly can't read it.

It is virtually impossible not to tear up at the original, happy photographs of Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst that are shown with the closing credits.

This is not about about violence as a control agent despite the horrific enactment of the verdict, but about the essence of a police state and how free thinking challenges its basic tenets. While we do hear more about National Socialist Party theory than in most films about the era, including "Downfall (Der Untergang)", the film demonstrates that governments rule more by hearts and minds than politics and therefore has intentional resonance to today's war against terrorism that sacrifices other human rights.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
The Passion of Sophie Scholl
nycritic26 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There are swimming pools that you just jump into without knowing if the water is really there or it's just an illusion and all there is below is hard concrete waiting for you to smash you to bits. This was the feeling I had when I finally picked up the energy and went to see SOPHIE SCHOLL: DIE LETZEN TAGE today, Tuesday April 25, at the Quad Cinema. Completely ignorant of the subject matter but irresistibly drawn to the image of a woman standing in defiance at a trial over a red background and a massive black swastika I wanted to know who she was, what her story was about, and how would I react to it.

Much like its distant cousin, Carl Theodor Dryer's stunning, classic silent film LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC, THE FINAL DAYS is also based not only on the transcripts from her trial and sentencing, but her interrogation, testaments from people who knew her -- documents that have been until recently released to the public's knowledge according to reports. And this is a groundbreaking action to take, especially when her story unveils itself and we see what she did at such an early age to sow the seeds of conscience -- a motif repeated several times over the course of the movie -- to the German people of the 1940s who had some knowledge that things were wrong but did not question them in fear.

Hence, the disclosure of these documents have brought a tremendous movie so sated with electricity that even when an interrogation scene goes on for almost an hour, it never seems to go up a hill but in fact is riveting, a tour de force of direction. Mark Rothemund's camera steals the show cutting back and forth from Sophie Scholl to her interrogator Robert Mohr (Julia Jentsch and Alexander Held, both fascinating foils). Mohr, unrelenting in his assault, is equally unprepared for when she strikes back word for word, unmoved (except for a quick cut to her hands which are wringing under the table, letting us know that after all, this is still a girl barely out of her teens). The suspense isn't about will she escape unscathed: her guilt is clear from the onset, we know that as much. But her verbal match with Mohr is so entrancing it starts to look like she may have actually escaped death. That is good direction (and mis-direction as well, but this is a compliment).

Going back to LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC, SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS bears some curious parallels to it. I found Sophie to, while as she herself quotes in a moment of quiet desperation, someone who barely knows God but nevertheless seeks his help, akin in spirit to Joan of Arc, in two crucial moments: one when she is reacting to the cries of torture (and wonders who that may be), and the second time, right before her execution. Both women have incredible convictions that their position is the correct ones -- and history has proved that indeed, they were right in acting with tolerance and altruism to men and their own conscience --, even at the moment when Sophie admits guilt, she is only reaffirming her own values to a gang government intent on smothering her eyes and words out.

Sadly enough, the Nazi regime did smother her light but not the far reaching power of her own convictions and here is the core, the meaning, of the movie: there are countless stories of human courage in the face of genocide and xenophobia -- from Jesus's passion to the victim of a hate crime. Sophie, in standing tall and telling her parents near the end that she would have done this again, transcends to a place much higher level and I feel that the inclusion of Robert Mohr at the end, with enigmatic, sad eyes, was a gesture that maybe he too felt the same way but, like Sophie said, he (like the German people) did not speak its mind.

Mohr, in fact, is the only other character other than Else Gebel and Hans Scholl to have significant screen time and have a very complex personality that is more suggested than revealed. Much like one of the monks who offers Joan of Arc the possibility to redeem herself -- to help them, and thus spare her life -- if she renounces her own conscience (and thus, the fruit of her faith), Mohr does this same exact thing to Sophie: he tries to, after seeing she will not budge and possibly taken aback by such resolve, to give her an equally easy exit. When she refuses, watch his eyes when she has to sign the papers which will condemn her. They're full of sadness, and maybe even a hint of admiration. After all, it is possible that no one has ever really shook his own belief system like she has, but a catharsis has taken place, and it shows in their last exchange once she heads to her own execution. I'm not sure that this actually happened, but I would like to think it did because despite the evil that men do to one another, there is a thing called faith, a thing called love, and a thing called hope. The images of Sophie's manifesto snowing over Germany and pictures of the real Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christophe Probst are proof that these are the people who matter -- not fake authorities who are monsters in uniform.

Being a movie about the members of the White Rose, I noticed something small throughout the screening of the movie, but to me a nice detail from an external source: two seats ahead of me, a gay couple, Germans both, silently watching the movie in an embrace, clearly in love. As I walked to the subway station I couldn't think about how Sophie's message extends itself to these two people whom she never even knew.
12 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A film - question
Vincentiu4 January 2009
A film about courage, moral values and dreams. A homage to the "White Rose" group and definition of sacrifice. A film - question for its public and subtle description of an era. A tale of few people who believe in honor and truth, in fundamental gestures and duty, who discover the world as not a cage and the hypocrisy as not a solution. Sophie Scholl is a symbol. Symbol of courage but in fact, definition of decent way to be yourself in a time of lies, in the time of fear. So, it is an important film. Not for its subject, not for beautiful interpretation of characters, not for tension or atmosphere. For the silence, for the respect of measure, for the art to be a remember against totalitarians projects.For image of normal resistance to a fake freedom. For the delicate respect for the future, for grew-up of future. A great film. A splendid testimony.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
An intimate and touching story
Rosabel21 November 2008
Unlike the grand canvas of 'Der Untergang', 'Sophie Scholl' is an intimate struggle on an almost miniature scale between the forces of good and evil, freedom and tyranny. Instead of famous names like Hitler, Goebbels, Speer et al., the characters in this story were, at the time, mere nobodies - a boy and girl and a few of their friends (who barely figure in the story) versus the mundane machinery of the local Gestapo. They weren't bomb-planting conspirators, just young people writing pamphlets, and yet this was enough to merit the death penalty. The film does a good job impressing the viewer with how quickly they were grabbed, convicted, and their lives snuffed out - the whole thing was hustled along in about 3 days. The same efficient machinery that murdered millions in concentration camps ground them up like sausages, without a hitch or hesitation.

At the time, their deaths must have seemed like the most futile waste imaginable - the war went on for years more, and it must have seemed, even to those sympathetic, that they had been as thoroughly obliterated as a blade of grass under the treads of a tank. It's never discussed in the film, but as Sophie and her brother were caught and taken away to their doom, I kept remembering the faith with which they embarked on their mission. "The whole university will rise up," said Hans adamantly, certain that once the students read their pamphlet, the lovers of truth and freedom would mobilize and put a stop to Hitler's madness. Yet when they were caught...nothing. The students stood by, cowed and submissive, and there was no uprising. Hans and Sophie must have been bitterly disappointed, but their reproaches were all to the representatives of the Nazi regime that interrogated them, not to the people who did not share their courage and clarity.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
a superbly told story
AndrewKnevett19 November 2008
Knowing a little bit about the White Rose I was really looking forward to this film and after seeing it I wasn't disappointed. No doubt there will be historians questioning aspects of the movie such as character and dialogue accuracy and whether enough time was devoted to certain members of the White Rose, but on the whole I personally believe the writers and director have made Sophie Scholl as authentic and succinct as possible.

The casting was spot on. Julia Jentsch and Gerald Alexander Held are brilliant and give very believable performances as indeed do the supporting cast which adds a lot of depth and feeling to what is a very bleak film. Director Marc Rothemund deserves praise for getting the best out of his actors and making a very fine piece of cinema which is argubly the definitive account of Sophie's last days.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Insight into a Dark Period in History
nturner10 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In World War II Germany, there was a group comprised mainly of students called The White Rose that protested the actions of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Needless-to-say, they were considered a threat to the war efforts of Germany and were dealt with harshly. This film portrays the last days of one of those students - Sophie Scholl.

Don't expect action as there is little. Most of the film shows the interrogation of Sophie by a Nazi official named Robert Mohr. Mohr was a decent man - as decent as any Nazi official could be in those times - who tried to persuade Sophie to state that she had been unfairly brought into the illegal activities by her brother and other members of The White Rose. Sophie was an idealistic and principled young woman who was adamant in accepting responsibility for her actions. We know all of this because the Nazis kept detailed records. Almost all of the dialog of the film was taken from those records.

In 1943, Sophie, her brother, and a friend were brought before a kangaroo court and convicted of treason. Even their defense attorney was against them and made no effort whatsoever to defend them against the charges. They were taken to prison and immediately beheaded.

This film offers a startling example of how powerless right-minded Germans were in Hitler's times and offers yet another history lesson as to how governments and officials can force their basically good citizens to perform evil acts in the name of the nation.

The DVD offers additional enhancements of interviews with Sophie and Hans Scholl's sister, a relative of Robert Mohr, and a man who was a member of The White Rose.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a fascinating insight into a dark period in world history. The script is engrossing and the acting superb. It is a worthy two hours of education and entertainment.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The movie as pure as Sophie's faith
antileft17 September 2008
One of the best German movies ever , no doubt , and the performance of a little-known Miss Julia Jenisch in the role of Sophie is simply astoundingly brilliant, this actress is simply to carefully watch over , as she combines charisma , beauty and intellect ! And there is not much to say about this prime example of European cinematic inspiration except that pray to God that we are witnessing the rebirth of it ( German , Italian ,Dutch !) and that more is here to follow ! The story of the arrest , investigation and the execution of Sophie and other members of the White Rose movement in 1943 in Germany is historically correct , albeit , in my opinion , is still less known outside Germany than the assassination attempt on Hitler. The dialogs between Miss Scholl and her investigators , specially her sheer courage , knowing fully well what her final verdict will be , her firm and unbreakable beliefs , are simply pure literature! I hope that this movie will become a part of school history curriculum !
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
See it
suzy-6029 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the very best films I've ever seen.

Using recently discovered documents--transcripts of Sophie Scholl's interrogation--this film takes a step back into history to show us how a small group of brave young students in Nazi Germany were caught and executed for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets.

The story isn't particularly well-known outside Germany, though hopefully this movie will spread awareness. It is a story that should be told, remembered, and lived by. People have a responsibility to resist those in power if that power is being misused. For Sophie Scholl and her friends, resistance ended on the guillotine, while millions of ordinary people went on tolerating, obeying, or supporting Hitler.

As for the story's presentation, it's impeccable. The acting is some of the best I've seen. Julia Jentsch is remarkable as Sophie Scholl, conveying extraordinary moral strength as well as human vulnerability. Fabian Hinrichs is also notable as her brother Hans, the group's leader, who exudes charisma and defiance. Gerald Held is likewise memorable as Sophie's interrogator.

The tone of the movie is very understated and low-key. The story's natural drama is allowed to shine out, making the emotional punch of the movie that much more effective. The distribution of the leaflets, the interrogation, the trial--it's all utterly gripping.

An excellent story, told with great skill. See it.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A modern-day Joan of Arc
marissas7528 September 2007
"Sophie Scholl - The Final Days" is a serious-minded film told entirely from the perspective of Sophie (Julia Jentsch), a 21-year-old student and member of the White Rose resistance movement in 1943 Munich. She and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) surreptitiously distribute anti-Nazi leaflets at their university, when one impulsive gesture of Sophie's results in their arrest. Thereafter, Sophie battles for her life and her ideals, in the face of swift and brutal Nazi "justice." Much of the dialogue is taken from the actual historical records of her interrogation and trial.

As other comments have noted, this movie is somewhat similar to Dreyer's "Passion of Joan of Arc"--another film tightly focused on a courageous young woman in the last days of her life, defending herself before a corrupt tribunal. But while Dreyer's film is about overwhelming emotion and spiritual suffering, "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days" is more about its heroine's ethical choices. In Jentsch's excellent performance, Sophie burns with an inner conviction that what she has done is right, but she never comes across as fanatical or crazed, as Joan of Arc can. Instead, she retains her wits and her composure, making some unforgettable statements that cut to the heart of the Nazi regime. She also thinks up a fairly convincing alibi--she's no willing martyr at first, but gradually finds the strength to defend her politics and try to protect her friends. The hints we get of Sophie's life before her arrest give her additional complexity: I was intrigued to learn that she was engaged to a soldier in the German Army, who had no idea of the depth of her political convictions.

There are a few flaws in this otherwise well-crafted film. Pounding, suspenseful music enhances the scene where Hans and Sophie drop off the leaflets, but can be too obtrusive at other times. Also, the performance by Andre Hennicke as the ranting, raving judge at Sophie's trial is so over-the-top that it seems to come from another movie. It's as though the filmmakers thought we hadn't gotten the message that the Nazis were evil.

In contrast, Gerald Alexander Held gives a complex and subtle performance as Sophie's interrogator. Though he is a by-the-book believer in Nazism, he develops a grudging respect for Sophie's strength of character. And if this young woman's bravery and integrity can have such an effect on a hardened Nazi, you can imagine how deeply her story, as told in "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days," will affect you.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed