Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance
Film review by Corinna Lotz
Munich is notorious as the capital of the Nazi movement. It is less well known as the place where a group of students staged a remarkable act of defiance during the darkest days of World War II.
With Sophie Scholl, the final days, director Marc Rothemund has brought to life the extraordinary courage of a 22 year-old student, the only woman in the White Rose (Weisse Rose) resistance movement. With her brother Hans and 24-year-old Christian Probst, Sophie helped to print and distribute flyers denouncing the Nazis and calling for an end to the war on February 18, 1943.
Sophie Scholl is played by Julia Jentsch, who trained at the famous Ernst Busch drama school in Berlin and previously starred in The Edukators and Downfall. Jentsch puts in a subtle but superb performance. She succeeds in conveying a real sense of psychological strength, as Sophie faces her interrogator, Mohr (Alexander Held) in the Gestapo headquarters.
The courtroom scene is equally convincing. Before a handpicked "public" of Nazi supporters, she and her brother still manage to defy the judge, knowing they face the death sentence.
Two weeks earlier German troops had surrendered at Stalingrad, following months of horrific fighting and losses - the most catastrophic defeat ever experienced in German history. The White Rose group's leaflet campaign was the first overt sign of disaffection in Germany as news of the scale of the disaster filtered through despite the Nazi propaganda machine.
The film is clearly a labour of love. Its producers graduated from Munich's TV and Film College. It was shot in original locations, including the University of Munich. Today, the square which leads to the courtyard where the Scholls were arrested is dedicated to them.
Rothemund draws on the historical facts, including the minutes of the Gestapo interrogations, which only became accessible in 1990 after the reunification of Germany. The filmmakers interviewed surviving relatives of those involved, including Scholl's younger sister and son of her interrogator.
The focus on a brief but incredibly intense period reveals that Sophie Scholl managed to convince, Mohr, a Gestapo interrogator with 26 years' experience, of her innocence after five hours of questioning. When, finally, the evidence against her becomes overwhelming, she says: "Yes, I took part in this and I am proud of it".
Rothemund's ambition is to explore how people react when confronted with injustice - "how far we are willing to go with our personal commitment", he says. With this film he has succeeded in doing more than that. Without rhetoric or moralising, it demonstrates how quite ordinary people can do the most extraordinary things.
Hans & Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst