Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) A film by Marc Rothemund, starring Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs and Gerald Alexander Held
In February of 1943, Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were arrested by the Gestapo for distributing leaflets at the University of Munich that protested the Nazi regime. What inspired the director to make first a television feature, and then the film, was reading the historical documents he found in the archives of the former East Germany. These were the transcripts of the interrogations of Sophie and her brother and others, who were members of the organization of passive resistance called “The White Rose”.
The screenwriter worked from the transcripts, and the movie follows her and her brother’s quick plunge from activism to arrest for a crime they knew was not to be tolerated. With the transcripts was a letter written to Sophie’s parents by Sophie’s cellmate, who describes Sophie’s last three days in captivity. What is interesting is that the documents should have been destroyed as the Gestapo destroyed all their files at the end of the war. But these happened to be sent to the People’s Court in Berlin, so they survived.
The heart of the film is Sophie’s interrogation by Robert Mohr, who is a staunch Nazi and yet is strongly affected by her testimony, even to the point of first believing in her innocence. Even though we know the film’s outcome, the drama is believably sustained by Julia Jentsch and the other actors, showing the tension between the terror of their situation and their belief in what brought them there. I found myself wondering, why was there no physical torture in the interrogation? But when the law itself upholds evil, perhaps there is no need for it.