Sophie Scholl was a bright, committed, serious 22-year old woman who joined a growing resistance of various intellectuals and students in 1942-43 to oppose Adolf Hitler. Scholl ended up paying for her involvement by being arrested, interrogated and beheaded, all within six short days in the summer of 1943. She was part of what was known as The White Rose, a student resistance group that produced a series of six leaflets to undermine their government following their miserable military defeat at Stalingrad, a defeat that cost so many German lives and showed where the future would lead under German national-socialism. This led to the idea of "All Our War, " a new phase which would foolishly lead to the death of millions more, both Germans and the Western allies who fought against them.
Director Marc Rothemund, using long-buried historical records, beautifully recreates Sophie Scholl’s last six days in this moving 2006 movie, now available on DVD: Sophie Scholl—The Final Days. The film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. It is in German, of course, with English subtitles. Julia Jentsch, the young German actress who portrays Sophie, does do with incredible realism and deeply felt human emotion. The interviews and portraits of her that appear on the features are quite revealing.
Since only six days of Sophie’s life are directly portrayed in this film the story moves along with an intensity that feels like a very short 117 minutes of running time. It is all a heartbreaking reminder of the price that must sometimes be paid to truly love one’s neighbors and thus to serve the interests of real freedom not one’s self. (Sophie was also arrested with her brother, who also died.) This story is hard to watch, with its true “wire-tight suspense.” Though it may sound like just another Nazi political film it is so much more than a lesson in the horrors of Nazi ideology, especially with the extra interviews included on the DVD version. Frankly this marvelous film is a grim reminder of how both courage and depth of thought can lead someone to give up their life for others they love. As a Christian I believe far too few of us understand this and would be willing to sacrifice with our lives for the love of our neighbors, especially if the driving force involved political ideology. And if that ideology has the blessing of many of our pastors, as was the case in Germany, then what would we do? We may not be on the verge of such a time but we never know. I think it best that we think this through deeply and love as if it could become our choice in times we do not foresee.
Several of the most moving scenes in this film surround Sophie’s obvious faith in Christ. She seems to begin with a weak, almost unformed and nervous faith, but under the stress of the six intense days she clearly reached out to God, prayed meaningful and passionate personal prayers and received the final blessing of a German minister in her cell. His comment, as he leaves, is that to her love involves laying down one’s life for their friends and thus she had the love of Christ in her. (This scene I watch
several times.) But the most moving scene of all was when her elderly parents saw her the last time. Her dad, who was quite conflicted about her activities in the first place, embraced her and his last words were: “Sophie, I love you and I am proud of you!” And her mom, with great dignity and love, says, through tears: “Sophie, remember Jesus, remember Jesus!” The director admitted that as an atheist he could not have faced his own death with such grace and courage. You will know why he says this if you see this film. (The photo to the left is of a memorial of two crosses for Sophie and her brother.)
The film is not rated but except for the chilling story told there is nothing offensive to the movie unless you can’t watch drama like this without it disturbing you. I hope many of you will see it. A New York Times film critic wrote: "A gripping story. It challenges you to gauge your own courage." It most prompted that in me.
After watching this film I watched the much praised classic film about the impact of the Holocaust, Sophie’s Choice. This excellent film earned Meryl Streep an Oscar as best actress in the 1982 Academy Awards. It is a fine film, for sure, but Sophie Scholl is not a fictional account thus had an entirely different feel to me personally. Furthermore, Sophie’s Choice, is a rich and powerfully acted drama but the message of faith and hope is plainly missing whereas in Sophie Scholl is is profoundly present.