Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Reviewed by William P. Meyers

Back in the 1980's I saw a movie called The White Rose. It portrayed a small band of young people in Nazi Germany who tried to encourage resistance to Hitler's regime and war policies. What struck me most was the beginning of the movie where life in middle-class Germany rolled pleasantly onward because, at that point, Germany was still winning the war. They had conquered France and Poland; German troops were outside Stalingrad.

It made me think of the United States, how our wars are always "over there." Over ten percent of the Iraqi people wounded in this latest war? I'll have fries with that Big Mac, and what is the latest fashion fad?

Anyway, The White Rose group was a failure. Its members were killed or imprisoned by the Nazis. There was never a meaningful revolt against Hitler.

In Sophie Scholl: The Final Days we see the same story from a different angle. Sophie is 21. Her brother is the instigator of The White Rose group. We see the two of them make the mistake of trying to put out anti-war fliers during daylight at their school; they are caught.

You know that being caught by the Nazis means death, but there is a great deal of gripping psychological and ethical drama in the rest of the movie. First Sophie denies being involved. Then she has a battle of wits with her German interrogator. He gives a pretty clear exposition of why most Germans supported Hitler and the National Socialist Party.

We live in a nation, the United States of America, that has worked out a system to keep political opposition impotent. Huge anti-war rallies and opinion polls showing Americans are against a particular war at a particular time (because American culture, historically, is very pro-war) are simply ignored. What was considered treason in Nazi Germany is simply freedom of speech here. Sure, if a protest gets out of hand, as happened during the civil rights movement and Vietnam protests, the police or National Guard will be ordered to shoot citizens without trial. If a group actually engages in armed revolt, whatever its purpose or ideology, it can expect to be gunned down. But that has always been the rule for rulers and ruled.

The craft of Sophie Scholl was excellent. The acting was good, the direction maintained dramatic tension, and the art direction fit the story.

Julia Jentsch plays Sophie. Her brother Hans Scholl is played by Fabian Hinrichs. Robert Mohr plays the interogator.

Marc Rothemund directs. Made by Zeitgeist Films. Written by Fred Breinersdorfer.

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