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Sophie Scholl was a member of the Weiße Rose (the White
Rose), a student resistance group that advocated passive resistance to the Nazi regime.
Sophie, her brother Hans and numerous other members were found out by the Nazis in 1943
and, within six days, arrested, subjected to a show trial and executed. Generations of
student activists have taken inspiration from Sophies principled idealism and
martyrdom at the hands of Nazi savagery. Marc Rothemunds film portrays the deeply
committed young woman wrestling with the Nazi beast, coming to fully realize that while
she might not survive, her ideals would, inevitably, come to prevail.
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose have become popular subject matter for serious film treatment. Best known is Michael Verhoevens film Die weiße Rose (The White Rose), which explores the founding and development of the movement as a whole and ends with Sophies arrest. Percy Adlons Fünf letzte Tage (Last Five Days) focuses on Sophies last days, based on the memoirs of Else Gebel, Sophies cell-mate, a middle-aged clerk in a Gestapo office imprisoned after being found carrying anti-Nazi pamphlets. Rothemunds film is based on Gestapo records which became available only in recent years, long after the earlier films release.
The Final Days concentrates on the emotional turbulence of Sophie's last five days, taking care to convey her spiritual growth. Sophies democratic, pro-federalist, German populist resistance to Nazi authoritarianism, Rothemund suggests, was akin to Martin Luthers spirit of protest as a German populist resisting Vatican authoritarianism. Sophie, a Protestant from the Swabian-speaking region of Ulm, was active in very Catholic, Bavarian-speaking Munich.
On February 18, 1943 Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were caught distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at the university in Munich and denounced by the building janitor to the Gestapo. They were arrested immediately and taken into interrogation. Julia Jentschs portrayal of Sophie captures an innocent and untested (though hardly naive), kind-hearted, matter-of-fact girl from the provinces who realizes quickly that her idealism and faith in humankind is rapidly leading to her death. Close-ups of Jentschs pale-skinned face, framed by long, straight black bangs, recall Angela Winklers Katharina Blum, another idealistic young woman who faced down the authorities, in The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Volker Schlondorff and Margaretha von Trottas 1975 excoriation of corporate capitalism at the height of Baader-Meinhoff-inspired domestic terrorism in Germany.
Rothemunds drama is gripping, the acting carefully and convincingly nuanced, and the plot masterfully paced. He presents Sophies story in three acts. After exploring Sophies character and her relationship with her brother Hans (Fabina Hinrics), their political commitment and their life as university students, the plot moves on to Sophies relationship with Else Gebel (Johanna Gastdorf) and what becomes more of a battle of wits with interrogator Robert Mohr (Alexander Held). The film climaxes with the show trial. Rothemund exercises considerable restraint, prudently saving the excessive stereotypical Nazi-out-of-control temper tantrums for this final courtroom showdown between members of the White Rose and the Nazi "justice" machine.
- Les Wright