Sophie Scholl – The Final Days
|Sophie Scholl – The Final Days|
|Directed by||Marc Rothemund|
|Written by||Fred Breinersdorfer|
|Edited by||Hans Funck|
X Verleih AG (Germany)|
Zeitgeist Films (USA)
Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (German: Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage) is a 2005 German film by director Marc Rothemund and writer Fred Breinersdorfer. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement. She was found guilty of high treason by the People’s Court and executed the same day, 22 February 1943.
The film was presented at the Berlinale in 2005 and won Silver Bear awards for Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Jentsch). It was nominated in September 2005 for an Oscar in the category Best Foreign Language Film.
In wartime Munich, Sophie Scholl joins members of the White Rose student organization, including Sophie's brother Hans, who are preparing copies of their sixth leaflet. They have mimeographed more than they can distribute through the mail. Hans proposes distributing the extras at university the next day; despite Willi arguing that the risks are unacceptable, Hans says that he will take full responsibility, and Sophie volunteers to assist.
The next day, Sophie carries a small suitcase as she and Hans walk to the main building of Munich University. In the building, where classes are in session, they set about putting down stacks of leaflets near the doors of lecture rooms. With only minutes left until the period ends, Sophie runs to the top floor, where she sets a stack of leaflets on the balustrade, then impulsively pushes them over the edge. As Hans and Sophie try to leave, a janitor who saw Sophie scatter the leaflets shouts at them to stop, and detains them until police arrive and arrest them.
The siblings are taken to the Munich Stadelheim Prison, where Sophie is interrogated by Gestapo investigator Robert Mohr. Claiming initially to be apolitical, she presents an elaborate alibi: she and her brother had nothing to do with the fliers; she noticed them in the hall and pushed a stack off the railing because it is in her nature to play pranks; and she had an empty suitcase because she was going to visit her parents in Ulm and planned to bring back some clothes. Her deception seems to be working; she is dismissed. As her release form is about to be approved, though, the order comes to not let her go. She is placed in a prison cell with fellow prisoner Else Gebel.
The investigation has found incontrovertible evidence that Sophie and Hans were indeed responsible for the distribution of anti-Nazi leaflets. Sophie concedes her involvement (as has Hans) but, determined to protect the others, steadfastly maintains that the production and distribution of thousands of copies of leaflets in cities throughout the region were entirely the work of Hans and herself. Mohr admonishes her to support the laws that preserve order in a society that has funded her education; Scholl counters that before 1933 the laws preserved the right of free speech, and describes atrocities committed by the Nazis, both ones she has seen and ones she has heard of (including reports of concentration camps from soldiers returning from the Eastern Front). When she says that she is willing to accept all blame, and refuses to name accomplices, Mohr ends the interrogation.
Sophie, her brother and a married friend with three young children, Christoph Probst, are charged with treason, troop demoralization and abetting the enemy. In the subsequent show trial, Probst is the first to be examined by President of the People's Court Roland Freisler, whose prosecutorial zeal makes the nominal prosecutor superfluous. Freisler contemptuously dismisses Probst's appeals to spare his life so that his children can have a father.
Hans maintains his composure in the face of Freisler's increasingly impatient questioning. Declining to answer only what he is asked, he argues that the defeat of the Nazi state has been made inevitable by the alliance of Russia, Britain and the United States; all Hitler can do is prolong the war. In her own examination, Sophie declares that many people agree with what she and her group have said and written, but they dare not express such thoughts. Freisler pronounces the three defendants guilty and calls on each to make a brief final statement. Sophie tells the court that “where we stand today, you [Freisler] will stand soon.” All are sentenced to death.
Sophie, who had been told that everyone had 99 days after conviction before they were executed, learns that she is to be executed that day. After a visit by her parents, who express their approval of what she has done, Mohr comes to the prison and sadly watches Sophie taken away. Soon after, she is led into a cell where Christoph Probst and Hans await. They quietly share a cigarette, then embrace. Probst remarks that what they did was not in vain. As Sophie is led into a courtyard, she says, "The sun is still shining". She is brought to the execution chamber and placed in a guillotine. The blade falls and the picture goes black. Footsteps are heard, then Hans's voice exclaiming "Es lebe die Freiheit!" ("Long live Freedom!") before the blade falls again. Probst is brought in next, breathing heavily, before the blade falls once more.
In the closing shot, thousands of leaflets fall from the sky over Munich. A title explains that copies of the White Rose manifesto were smuggled to Scandinavia and then to England, where the Allies printed millions of copies of the "Manifesto of the Students of Munich" that were subsequently dropped on German cities. The first frames of the credits list the names of the seven members of the White Rose group who were executed, more than a dozen who were imprisoned, and supporters and sympathizers who received draconian punishments.
|Julia Jentsch||Sophia Magdalena 'Sophie' Scholl|
|Fabian Hinrichs||Hans Fritz Scholl|
|Alexander Held||Robert Mohr|
|Johanna Gastdorf||Else Gebel|
|André Hennicke||Dr. Roland Freisler|
|Florian Stetter||Christoph Hermann Probst|
|Maximilian Brückner||Willi Graf|
|Johannes Suhm||Alexander Schmorell|
|Lilli Jung||Gisela Schertling|
|Petra Kelling||Magdalena Scholl|
|Jörg Hube||Robert Scholl|
|Franz Staber||Werner Scholl|
Awards and recognition
- Berlin Film Festival, 2005
- European Film Awards, 2005
- Best European Actress – Julia Jentsch
- Audience Award
- Bernhard-Wicki-Filmpreis, 2005
- German Film Awards (Lolas)
- Audience Award
- Best Film, Silver Prize
- Best acting performance (female main role) – Julia Jentsch
- 78th Academy Awards
- Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days film website (in English)
- Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage film website (in German)
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days at the Internet Movie Database
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days at AllMovie
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days at Box Office Mojo
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days at Metacritic
- Sophie Scholl – The Final Days at Rotten Tomatoes