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SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (director: Marc Rothemund; screenwriter: Fred Breinersdorfer; cinematographer: Martin Langer; editor: Hans Funck; music: Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil; cast: Julia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl), Alexander Held (Robert Mohr), Fabian Hinrichs (Hans Scholl), Johanna Gastdorf (Else Gebel), André Hennicke (Dr. Roland Freisler), Florian Stetter (Christoph Probst); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Christoph Mueller/Sven Burgemeister/Mr. Breinersdorfer/Mr. Rothemund; Zeitgeist Films; 2005-Germany-in German with English subtitles)
“The film has an immeasurable fascination that makes us look on as voyeurs and wonder how we might have reacted during such desperate times.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-intended commemoration of a courageous young woman, an idealistic and true heroine, the 21-year-old Munich University student Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), the sole female member of the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance group, who put her life on the line to back her convictions. German director Marc Rothemund and screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer base it on historical fact and courtroom transcripts to reconstruct the last six days in the life of one of the few Germans who dared protest in a non-violent way the Nazi war machine and is now considered a national heroine. Her gripping story has been told twice before on German film in 1982, Michael Verhoeven’s “White Rose” and Percy Adlon’s “Five Last Days.” What gives this film additional power is the use of court transcripts discovered in 1990 stashed away in East German archives. These make possible the actual records of the long and grueling interrogation with the clever Gestapo officer Robert Mohr (Alexander Held) that Sophie had to endure, where it’s shown how even facing certain death she never backed down.

It occurs in February 1943, a time the Germans are troubled when word leaks out of the terrible defeat at Stalingrad where 330,000 soldiers have been killed but the authorities have hidden the news from them. Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) are members of the small underground White Rose resistance group at the university and under Hans’ insistence go from writing slogans on walls to dropping leaflets during broad daylight in the university’s atrium, while classes are in session. The pamphlets state that the war cannot be won and urges Germany to sue for peace. They naïvely hope their actions will spark a student rebellion. Unfortunately they are spotted by the janitor and are immediately arrested for printing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Subsequently Sophie was guillotined alongside her brother, Hans, and their White Rose married comrade Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter).

Though we know the outcome and the film lacks a dramatic tension and doesn’t tell us much about the personal life of the Scholls, the subject matter is so unique and the protagonists are clearly the powerless good guys up against such a powerful evil regime that the film has an immeasurable fascination that makes us look on as voyeurs and wonder how we might have reacted during such desperate times. The film is further buoyed by Ms. Jentsch’s impressive performance that eschews sentimentality and histrionics for a sincere and moving portrayal in steadfast moral courage.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”