Movie Review: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) tells the story of a young woman today considered one of the great heroes of Germany.  Sophie Scholl (portrayed by Julia Jentsch in a great performance) was part of the White Rose, a student organization in Munich that opposed the Nazi regime during the Second World War.  Along with her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) she is arrested for leafleting the main building at Munich University.  The scene in which they are shown frantically leaving stacks of leaflets is taught with tension and I couldn’t help hoping they’ll get away okay even though I knew they’d get caught. Part of the reason they don’t get away is because on a whim Sophie pushes a stack of leaflets over a ledge so that they fall all over the atrium.

This impulsive act is witnessed by a janitor and really makes one question how one simple act can change one’s life. Under interrogation by Gestapo agent Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held in another great performance), Sophie is almost able to talk her way to freedom by acting like a mischievous, carefree girl.  When finally forced to confess her complicity in political activism she resolutely refuses to name other members of the White Rose.  The movie very literally portrays her lasts days but weaves in biographical data in these interviews.  We learn that Sophie’s political convictions are not just based on the fact that Germany is losing the war, but on a desire for democracy in Germany and opposition to the persecution of the Jewish people and political dissidents.

The film is also steeped in historical fact.  Even the absurdly hostile judge who sentences Sophie to death is (sadly) true to life.  The film ends with the execution of Sophie, Hans, and other members of the White Rose by guillotine, but we also learn that leaflets of the White Rose were smuggled to the Allies and these would later be copied and dropped on German cities.