AKA: Sophie Scholl: Die Ietzten Tage
Genre: Legal Drama/Tragedy
Year Released: 2005
Distributor: Zeitgeist Films
Running Time: 117 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The White Rose, The Nasty Girl, The Passion of Joan of Arc, 13 Minutes, Aimee & Jaguar, Das Versprechen, Fünf letzte Tage
-Sophie Scholl is considered a national hero in Germany. There are streets, schools, and statues made in her honor. Also, she got the Google Doodle treatment on her 93rd birthday should she still have been alive.
-Director Marc Rothemund has also worked on films such as My Blind Date With Life, Ants in the Pants, and Pornorama.
-Julia Jentsch, the woman who portrayed Sophie in this film was in Hannah Arendt, 24 Weeks, and The Edukators.
-The creators of Sophie Scholl: The Final Days used several transcripts, letters, and archived trial footage to make sure this film had a good amount of historical accuracy to it. Several of those sources were special features on the DVD.
-Composer Reinhold Heil has scored Deadwood, Cloud Atlas, and Run Lola Run.
I have been on a kick of re-watching movies again, but some of the things I’ve been watching have been of the World War II period piece variety. One could say that this started with the brilliant, yet criminally underrated gem Mother of Mine which I reviewed last December. Besides that, I’ve been wanting to find more films that have dealt with bravery from individuals who won’t be censored in any way possible. Maybe Big Boys Gone Bananas!* rekindled that passion after watching and reviewing that documentary. This time, it’s different. I’m tackling a German film about one of their heroes who dared to stand up to the Nazi government.
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days takes place in Munich in the year 1943. There’s a non-violent organization of college students known as the White Rose resistance who’s goal is to expose the various crimes of the Nazis during the height of Hitler’s regime. One member in particular is the real life woman Sophie Scholl. She, her brother Hans, and others distribute pamphlets loaded with incriminating information about the Third Reich at Munich University. Unfortunately, she and Hans are caught by the janitor to which they are turned in. She’s grilled by Inspector Mohr, who’s loyal to Hitler’s regime to a fault and everyone they caught in this illegal act of delivering pamphlets is charged with high treason.
I hadn’t seen this film in a little over a decade much like other foreign titles I’ve watched in my life, but I will say that the visuals hold up. The dark visuals really nail the treacherous feeling all around them even in the more peaceful places prior to the Scholls being imprisoned. The usage of lighting and shot composition are spot on. The interrogation scenes using mechanical color tones and lower lighting with the exception of Mohr shining a bright light on Sophie in one part just looks unsettling. This certainly had a lower budget than most Hollywood films, but I swear you wouldn’t be able to tell that this was an independent film with how crisp everything looks. They certainly made everything look like 1940s Germany with the fashion, technology, and the Nazi regalia around Munich. Props to the creators for the visual production side of the film.
The characters also got my attention even though they are portrayals of real people in history. Sophie Scholl is a heroine that I certainly admire. She may not have super strength, have magical powers, or get into physical altercations like many a fictional heroine, but she is so brave. All she did was non-violent protesting with the pamphlets. At first, she claims that she is apolitical to throw off Mohr and the other Nazis. Once they bring up the evidence that she was directly or indirectly involved in other White Rose matters, she admits it while looking Mohr dead in the eye while saying that she has no regrets bringing the truth out there as she counters some of his points despite him not believing her. Even though she stands up for herself and her White Rose comrades, she still feel vulnerable. When she prays in the prison cell, she says “Dear God, all I can do is stammer to you.” as she opens her prayer. This was a great revelation of her inner fears despite her courage and I could see some parallels to the Moses story since he had a stammering problem and the both of them dealt with genocidal empires. Mohr was certainly a threatening antagonist. Any other director would turn him into a villain straight out of Inglorious Basterds or even Captain America: The First Avenger, but he has a human side even though he’s totally complicit in evil. He casually mentions how he hated working for the French after the Treaty of Versailles was signed which decimated Germany’s economic stability after losing World War I which caused him to believe in Hitler’s ideals, yet Mohr is totally oblivious to his own country committing atrocities across Europe as they were colonizing other places like Poland. Then there’s the judge Dr. Roland Freisler at the final act of the film. This guy is one of the scariest judges ever with his hair-trigger temper, penchant for insulting the White Rose members on trial and his rampant denial of the Holocaust claiming that no German would ever believe that anyone in this country would slaughter Jews or even the mentally handicapped. The cast was really strong and the actors did a fantastic job playing these people.
Watching this film was fascinating, but not always for the reasons that Marc Rothermund may have intended. I’ve seen so many parallels to non-violent protestors getting demonized even here in America. Don’t believe me? How is it that the #NoDAPL water protectors get attacked by dogs, shot, and beaten for daring to preserve Lake Oahe? Ironically, there’s White Supremacists who can push and assault cops without facing any legal ramifications. Seriously, watch that clip and tell me if any ethnic minority would get the same treatment if they were in the Alt-Right’s shoes. Even the talking points about anti-war protestors demoralizing the troops would eventually be echoed in the Vietnam protests or those opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. When Hans talks about the massacres taking place with the Germans being the assailants against other Europeans and how all the Nazis deny it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Caucasian allies (those with the right reasons) to Civil Rights groups talking about the harsh reality of POCs while most people don’t even believe them. Hitler wouldn’t be the only one committing crimes against humanity for example. There’s even previous tyrants like King Leopold II who murdered 10 million Congolese during his reign and he never got punished for it. People who call out the atrocities of others shouldn’t be demonized at all especially those that do it in a peaceful manner. It’s as if peace is somehow a bigger threat in some ways to the establishment than violence around the world. Life can be so ironic and stupid.
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is something I’d recommended people to watch, but I can’t call this film some immaculate master piece. I did notice some aliasing issues when I watched my DVD for this review. The final scene of the papers raining down on Germany did look cheesy and I can tell that this was a constructed CGI and/or blue screen effect when everything else was naturalistic more or less. One thing that I would’ve loved to have seen more was the sibling dynamic between Sophie and her big brother Hans. When they were on screen together, it was awesome as they had a healthy sibling relationship. Since the movie mainly focuses on Sophie so much, you rarely see them together besides the beginning and end of the films. It’s a shame because I would’ve liked to have seen how he influenced her to be a part of this resistance movement instead of Mohr just talking about the evidence that involved Hans to Sophie.
This German period piece is a high quality film regardless of the few flaws in it. The acting was superb as everyone nailed the portrayals of all these people. Some of them even look like their real-life counterparts, but in color. The visual production despite a few hiccups worked so well. The dramatic music was great and not overbearing at all. Any intelligent viewer should definitely pick up on parallels between Nazi Germany and other events going on today. It makes you wonder how far society has really progressed and how much Germany has owned up to their government’s past crimes. There are some lacking elements like Sophie’s relations with her fiancee or not enough screen time to show this dynamic sibling duo of her and Hans trying to expose the Nazis’ crimes. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a must-see film that gives anyone insight on an aspect of World War II that’s rarely talked about outside of Germany.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a huge fan of WWII period pieces.
Subtract 1-2 points if you don’t like legal dramas.
-Strong writing and highly relevant messages
-Excellent acting from the whole cast
-Historically accurate production
-Lack of backstory with Sophie and Hans
-Aliasing on the DVD
-Cheesy final shot with the papers
Final Score: 9/10 points
Content Warning: Teens and up, easily. There’s some swearing in it, but nothing too major. The crimes that are exposed are graphic and there’s some off-screen torture of an inmate. The executions involve guillotines even though the screen fades to black as the beheadings are going on, but you hear the noises of the machines and heads dropping.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is property of Zeitgeist Films. The DVD cover is from Kino Lorber and is property of Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist Films.