For every tale of horror from WWII there’s an opposing tale of heroism; unfortunately, most of the tales are intertwined so that there is rarely heroism without horror. Sophie Scholl is yet another figure who I never heard about in school, a student revolutionary in the midst of one of the most unimaginable regimes in history, rebelling against a force which threatened to envelop the world. A stark tale of triumph and of trying, of struggling with little hope for victory, of driving for change against a tottering wall.
It would be very easy to make a very different type of film in our modern world of SJWs and general activism. Thankfully the filmmakers do not go down that route and instead portray the true events of the story in as genuine a way as possible, free from 21st Century opinion or hindsight. Sophie Scholl was the daughter of an anti-Nazi, liberal politician – herself becoming part of the White Rose resistance group. The film starts with Sophie at University in the middle of WWII, where she and her group have been making anti-Nazi leaflets and mailing them around Munich. Having made too many copies, Sophie’s brother Hans suggests that they distribute the remainder around the University. This is an incredibly risky move given that the Nazi’s control the University and if seen with the material the group could be arrested as dissidents. Being young and fearless and filled with passion, the group proceeds with the plan. In a tense scene, Sophie makes the fatal decision to scatter a large pile of the leaflets from the top floor of the University so that they fall to the ground for everyone to see.
The rest of the film involves the interrogation and sham trial which Sophie and her friends are forced to go through. Accused with and eventually charged with treason, there was always only one way this story was going to end. Personally I knew nothing of this story and was hoping it would end differently. There are a few tense moments where it looks like Sophie might get away – she has a convincing alibi during her interrogation by Robert Mohr -only to be grabbed at the last minute. Mohr at least seems to sympathize with her position and doesn’t come across on screen as the monster you would have expected. But whether bound by law or position or belief, he cannot protect her and once sent to trial there is no escape. Scholl and her partners recognise the trial for what it is, and instead use it as a chance to point fingers at her accusers, namely the notorious Nazi Judge Roland Freisler, and remind them that Germany is losing the war. Although they offer rousing speeches, defences, and accusations which echo through time, it is not enough to save their lives.
This is an engaging film, though some may find it difficult to watch given that is based on true events. Julie Jentsch, so good in The Edukators, is again very strong here, and the cast all perform admirably. Obviously we know who won the war, and we are shown in the closing moments of the movie that the Allies received a copy of Sophie’s leaflet, made millions of copies, and dropped them from planes over Germany in one of the war’s greatest trolls. Although this looks and feels like a TV movie, it deserves the wider audience films such as Downfall and Black Book have received, and even though it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards, it isn’t a film I ever see people talking about.
Let us know in the comments if you have seen Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, and what you made of it. How does it rank along with other WWII, non-battle focused films you have seen?