As with Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days—Germany’s official selection for the 2005 Academy Awards—partially uses as its guide historical documents and personal accounts to recreate a narrow look at the last earthly activities of a WWII icon, though in this case the figure whose climactic death is sympathetically obscured from view is not Hitler or Goebbels but, rather, freedom fighter Sophie Scholl. Scripted by Fred Breinersdorfer with the aid of Scholl’s letters and transcription notes from her in-custody interrogation, director Marc Rothemund’s film focuses its gaze on university student Scholl’s (The Edukators’ Julia Jentsch) whirlwind six-day ordeal in 1943 Munich, during which she is arrested for distributing revolutionary Hitler-critical leaflets on behalf of the White Rose resistance group along with brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) and friend Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter), is vehemently grilled by Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr (Alexander Held), and is tried and executed by Munich’s People’s Court for high treason. Despite the title giving away the fatal conclusion, the film nonetheless manages a modicum of suspense from its centerpiece conversations between Scholl, who attempts a cover story before confessing her liberal opinions, and Mohr (a Reich true believer), utilizing a reserved, traditional shot/countershot structure to amplify the tension of their back-and-forth ideological debate between National Socialism totalitarianism and free speech-empowered democracy. Such restraint lends the drama a sobering gravity, although as the director’s one-note mise-en-scène begins to stagnate—and as he increasingly falls back on recurring shots of Scholl staring at the sun through her cell’s barred windows, mournful piano tinkling in the background—the film also starts to exhibit the look and feel of a History Channel original movie. However, if Sophie Scholl suffers from visual and tonal stasis, it still manages to pinpoint fascism’s inherent bribery logic which contends that, because the state offers its (in this instance only Aryan) citizens educational and professional opportunities, it in turn deserves unfailing loyalty and obedience. And buoyed by Jentsch’s superb performance as the individualistic and devoutly Protestant Scholl, Rothemund captures the faint but nonetheless discernable strain of feminist camaraderie and religiosity that also served as complementary components of Scholl’s insurgent anti-Nazi “idea” of liberty and equality for all.
- Marc Rothemund
- Fred Breinersdorfer
- Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Alexander Held, Johanna Gastdorf, André Hennicke, Florian Stetter, Johannes Suhm, Maximilian Brückner, Jörg Hube, Petra Kelling