Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (German 2005) - Review

Language - German
Genre - Drama, War
Release - 2005

WWII has given us many tales of heroism and sacrifice. Most of the well-known stories revolve around the 'Axis' soldiers fighting against the evil Nazi empire. There have also been heroes in Germany itself who took on the Nazis in an attempt to save their country or for the sake of humanity. The most well-known movies on such heroism that comes to my mind is the brilliant Oscar winning Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg, and the Tom Cruise starrer Valkyrie. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is the true story of a anti-Nazi student resistance group 'White Rose' (Weisse Rose), with the focus on one of it's greatest and youngest martyrs, the 21 years old Sophie Scholl. Sophie Scholl, along with her brother Hans Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo while distributing pamphlets denouncing the war efforts of the Nazis in 1943, and imploring the German citizens to join the resistance movement in an effort to save Germany. The Scholl Siblings and a friend Christoph Probst, father of three children, were convicted of high treason by the 'mock' public court and executed the same day. Directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer, the movie chronicles the last days of Sophie Scholl, from her arrest to her execution, along with her brother Hans Scholl and friend Christoph Probst. The movie was highly praised for it's realistic execution. it won the Silver Bear Awards at the German international Film festival for best Director and Best Actress, and also prestigious Lolas (German Film Awards) in the same categories.

Highly accliamed in film festivals around the world, the movie also earned a nomination at the 2005 Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language film, losing out to the South African Film about a young street thug, Tsotsi. The film is marked by great performances, especially the lead character of Sophie Scholl played by Julia Jentsch. Julia skillfully manages to exude the most extreme of emotions like fear and trepidation and a unconditional belief in her moral values in-spite of her vulnerability as a 21 year old, with conviction. Another performance worth mentioning is that of the Alexander Held as Robert Mohr, the Gestapo inspector investigating the 'crime'.  Methodical in his approach, Mohr gradually builds empathy towards Sophie's conviction in her beliefs, though misguided beliefs in his opinion.

From left: Hans, Sophie and Christoph
In Mohr, we are presented with a 'real' character who believes in Nazi ideologies but wants to establish the proof of crime before passing any judgment, in stark contrast to the various uni-dimensional Gestapo and SS characters generally portrayed in movies. The performances by Fabian Hinrichs as Hans Scholl and Florian Stetter as Christoph Probst are sincere. Marc Rothemund pays homage to this quiet heroism by keeping the movie devoid of any commercial trappings, and his effort is greatly complemented by the subtle yet evocative performances by all the actors. Sophie Scholl - The Final Days is an extremely believable and compelling film about courage, sacrifice and belief on one's morality and humanity in general.