Saturday, April 01, 2006

Movie / Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Great movie. Winner of several German film awards, and Germany's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. A well produced, briskly paced, unsentimental, powerful portrait of intelligence (beauty) and moral courage in the face of tyranny. "Based on true events."

Sophie was a 21 year old university student in Munich who belonged to an underground group called The White Rose. In early 1943, she, her brother, and various other students were arrested, interrogated, tried, and executed (7 days later) on charges of high treason for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. They committed no violent acts, but called for an end to the war (which after the defeat at Stalingrad appeared unwinnable), and the end of Nazi rule.

How, among millions of lives lost under the Nazis, did history come to focus on Sophie? One of her leaflets got out of the country to Scandanavia and later the Allies air dropped a million or so copies on several German cities with the title "German Students' Manifesto" (a much better funded leaflet campaign). Presumably someone then put this together with court records and personal remembrances.

Like other students on full scholarship, Sophie is highly motivated and brilliant, if lacking in common sense. Hence she is more than an intellectual match for the mediocre party officials, police goons, and kangaroo jurists who investigate and prosecute her "crimes." Although a Protestant, she appears on her way to "canonization" as an exemplar of conscience, nonviolence, and peace making.

There have been two prior movies of Sophie's story, but this one had the benefit of additional documents from the East German archives. Her cell mate Else was a real person, so presumably those moments are authentic. Also the actress closely resembles Sophie's photos.

No sex, violence, abuse, or strong language, but NOT a film for children, owing to its very mature subject matter.

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Four days later. It occurs to me that you could make a very different movie, based on the same events, from the viewpoint of (say) descendants of other White Rose members. They were all in this resistance group. Sophie's brother got the hotheaded idea to distribute the extra flyers on campus during class, hoping to incite an uprising. Sophie not only didn't stop him, but got the even stupider idea to push them over the bannister into the crowd. As a result of her wildly immature and irresponsible actions, she got all of them arrested and killed. Cut to those who lost their loved ones because of her, such as the children of Paul Probst. BUT, this would conflict with the idea that she is a saint! Oh well...

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