Political Film Society - Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

PFS Film Review
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days


Sophie Scholl: The Final DaysSophie Scholl: The Final Days is a docudrama of the last five days of a member of White Rose, a German underground organization of college students who distributed leaflets with anti-Nazi information and propaganda. The film begins on February 18, 1943. Sophie Magdalena Scholl (played by Julia Jentsch), her brother Hans (played by Fabian Hinrichs), and two others are mimeographing a leaflet containing information that 300,000 Wehrmacht soldiers have just died at Stalingrad. They go the University of Munich to distribute them in an amateurish manner. Spotted on the floor where the leaflets are found, carrying empty suitcases, they are detained and questioned by the Gestapo, which conducts a thorough investigation and finds more incriminating evidence. During the interrogation, Hans confesses to get his sister off the hook. Although Sophie's lies are clever, eventually she admits her involvement; she tries to keep others from being named, but Christoph Probst (played by Florian Stetter), a member of the White Rose in another city, is also implicated. At one point, Inspector Robert Mohr (played by Gerald Alexander Held) and Sophie debate the legitimacy of the Nazi Reich. Mohr fulminates that the Nazis have been good to him personally and to Germans economically, but Sophie questions his premises with democratic rhetoric, calmly and fervently. Mohr even urges Sophie to retract her self-incrimination so that she can receive a lesser sentence, if any, but she insists on martyrdom. On February 21, 1943, she signs a confession, and her trial before the People's Court takes place the following day. Sophie, Hans, and Probst are brought before a court, with many German officers in attendance, so the proceeding is a show trial. Although Probst asks for mercy, as he has a family, his plea is denied. Sophie and her brother are more defiant. The film ends later that day, February 22, 1943, when Sophie puts her head in a guillotine, and we next hear but do not see the blade fall down three times. Titles at the end indicate that approximately twenty members of the White Rose were later executed. However, one copy of the leaflet was carried to London and duplicated for distribution by Allied airplanes over Germany. What is perhaps most remarkable about the film is how the evidence for the docudrama was obtained. Interrogation reports were captured by the Russians, sent to Moscow, then back to East Germany, and finally went into German archives after German unification. Marc Rothemund, the director, obtained the documentary information quite recently, including the account of Sophie's cellmate of her brief incarceration; he also interviewed White Rose survivors as well as Mohr's son. Within Germany, the film is a reminder that others could have joined the resistance and are culpable for not doing so. In addition, the dialog, particularly the debate between Sophie and Mohr, is an eloquent refutation of the naïve ideas held by contemporary neo-Nazis. As a film that brings to light facts not generally known, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days has been nominated by the Political Film Society as the best film exposé of 2006. The mockery of justice in the show trial also has prompted a nomination for the best film to raise consciousness about the desirability of democracy as well as the need to maintain human rights. MH

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