Review: Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (Rothemund, 2005)

Still from the movie Sophie Scholl

As an antidote to Fury, we thought we would watch Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, a 2005 film about one of the members of the White Rose, a German underground student group resisting the Nazis. The eponymous heroine (Julia Jentsch or a young Holly Hunter?) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs), with all the reckless idealism of youth, volunteer for a dangerous mission distributing anti-Nazi flyers at their university (click here to see the translated text of those flyers). The group has also been responsible for painting resistance slogans around Munich and other such seemingly innocent acts of free speech. The flyers mostly call for an end to fighting, claiming that Hitler is dragging the country into an un-winnable war, citing major routs in the Soviet Union and predicting a quick defeat by the Americans. I thought the phrase “The Final Days” in the title was intended to mean the final days of the war; moreover, the optimism of the characters made me believe that the film must be taking place as late as 1945, that the Americans really were coming soon. So I was surprised to find that these sentiments existed as early as 1942. Alas, Sophie and her group were ahead of their time.

The real Sophie Scholl

The real Sophie Scholl

The film opens with a few lines explaining that the depicted events are based on recently uncovered documents about the White Rose, so we are to presume that much of what we see, including the contents of the flyer, the details of Sophie and Hans’ arrest, and the subsequent interrogations, are factual. Unfortunately, what proceeds is more hagiography than nuanced film. Sure, we are moved by and for Sophie: undaunted even at the end, her words and deeds are undoubtedly heroic, and she pays a heroine’s price for them. (Although, her brother seems equally passionate and self-sacrificing, so I’m not sure why Sophie is the sole focus.) But what else is there to this movie? Is it just to serve notice to the world (including Germany) that there were good Germans during World War II? Indeed it is not unimportant for us to remember that. Yet, if Fury is simplistic in one way, Sophie Scholl seems equally simplistic in another. Though it stays just shy of mawkish, the film lacks any complexity, moral or otherwise. More interesting would have been a movie about Sophie’s interrogator, Robert Mohr (Alexander Held, who looks a bit like an older, colder Chris O’Dowd). In Mohr conviction and empathy seem to live in conflict and concert; I would have liked to know more about him.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s not enough to make a movie of something that happened just because it happened. It is neither entertaining nor exploratory.

Chris O'Dowd (left) and Alexander Held (right)

Chris O’Dowd (left) and Alexander Held (right)

Holly Hunter (left) and Julia Jentsch (right)

Holly Hunter (left) and Julia Jentsch (right)

 

 

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