Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

World Magazine movie review:

As is often the case, most of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language Film were largely unknown to American audiences at the time of the ceremony. What's especially sad about this is that the most inspiring, gripping, and surprising film nominated that evening—among both the winners and losers—was one of these little-seen gems.

Germany's entry, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, deserves a place next to A Man for All Seasons, Chariots of Fire, and others of the most profound portrayals of faith on film. Although currently only playing in select cities (with a wider release expected), this import is the definition of a film worth seeking out, even though it lost the Oscar to the South African film Tsotsi.

Well-known in Germany, Sophie Scholl is a figure of remarkable courage, intellect, and faith. The film deals with just six days of this young woman's life—the final six days. Key members of a passive resistance anti-Nazi group known as The White Rose, Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) risk their lives by writing, printing, and distributing pamphlets that condemn National Socialism and a bloody war that Germany could not win.

On the morning of Feb. 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans walk into a lecture hall at the University of Munich to secretly distribute the group's sixth pamphlet before the building was flooded with students. This dangerous mission does not end well.

The film concerns itself with the short but intense period between Sophie's capture and execution. After she is jailed, Sophie faces off against Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr (the steely Gerald Alexander Held), a Nazi true believer and atheist committed to breaking Sophie's spirit in order both to convict her and to search out her collaborators. While one might initially be frustrated at the lack of context for Sophie and her strongly held beliefs, the force of these interrogation scenes erases all misgivings.

Director Marc Rothemund and screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer base their story extensively on transcripts of Sophie's interrogation and trial previously unpublished and unavailable (they were sealed away in East Germany before 1990). Never coming across as a Nazi-villain caricature, Mohr demonstrates supreme intellect and commitment to his cause—but is shocked to find himself matched by Sophie, who has intellect and willpower to spare.

Mr. Rothemund, at the helm of a technically excellent production, shows immense skill at weaving in details that inform Sophie's character but never overwhelm the production with heavy-handed exposition. We learn of her faith in quiet moments of prayer, and of the influence of her parents (remarkably, it's positive) in informing her political views. Sophie possesses a deep-seated strength of character, and her humble confidence is so unnerving to Mohr that one wonders whether the first to break will be her or him.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days makes Sophie's moving story accessible to the rest of the world. Though the film is unrated, it contains nothing objectionable; only the intensity of the subject matter ought to give parents pause in allowing children to see it. It's a story that serves as a powerful example of faith and courage in the face of great evil. Go see it.

11 Comments:

  • I saw this in World Magazineyesterday too. My history studies right now are centered around WWII and I've read a ton about Sophie. I'm hoping to go and see the movie!

    By Blogger Kristin, at 4:11 PM  

  • hmm...i'd just read this in World review about five minutes before I saw your post on it! Definately want to see this--sounds almost as good as Luther

    By Blogger Unconformed, at 4:43 PM  

  • I had never heard of the movie before reading your post. It sounds excellent!

    By Blogger Hannah Beth, at 6:22 PM  

  • Yeah, I have to go search through the newspapers to see where the movie is playing ( since it is only being shown in select theatres).

    By Blogger MVB, at 6:31 PM  

  • I saw it this morning when I got my World Magazine. I definitely want to see it!!!!

    By Blogger Abigail Snyder, at 7:26 PM  

  • Never heard of it. Looks interesting, in a Schindlers List sort of way.

    By Blogger Palm boy, at 10:56 PM  

  • I read a review for it in the Seattle Times. IT looks good but I'm hesitant to fork out my hard earned dollars to go see a movie. Especially one in a language I can't understand.

    For some reason I've been struck with a strong urge to be more responsible with my money lately.

    By Blogger Rabenstrange, at 1:48 AM  

  • That sounds like a movie that would be worth going to see!

    By Anonymous amanuet, at 8:32 AM  

  • It sounds like a good movie! I'm guessing it has English subtitles?

    By Blogger Hannah-Liz, at 9:24 AM  

  • Yeah, it must have the English subtitles since it was made in Germany.

    By Blogger MVB, at 9:57 AM  

  • A great movie, worth buying the DVD. Story of the White Rose movement during WW2, casting and acting...great.
    I have a head injury and it took a while to find this site. I wanted to say thank-you Julia Jentsch for your portrayal of SOPHIE
    the warmth, compassion and, humanity is extraordinary. .....
    .."SOPHIE SCHOLL....The Final Days"... is a CLASSIC

    By Anonymous dsolt@yahoo.com, at 2:15 AM  

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