Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

| March 1, 2006

I pretty much felt like when it came to movies about World War II, I had seen them all. The horrors of the concentration camps, the courageous concealment of would-be prisoners by total strangers, the eventual American invasion… I figured that it had all been done at this point. And you know where I’m going with this. Of course, I was wrong.
It goes without saying that millions of people abhorred and condemned the German state during the war for its torture and destruction of countless lives. With the exception of Mr. Schindler, however, few stories are told about the German people themselves who fought for an end to Hitler’s reign. The history books may induce us think that the country was completely brainwashed, that everyone supported the Fuhrer without questioning his authority, motives or morality. Yet that would be both a great deceit and insult to those who, in fact, sacrificed their freedom, safety and very lives to stop the terror. That is why films like Sophie Scholl must be told to give a fair recount and deserved remembrance to those brave individuals.
She is only twenty-one years old, but already Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) has the wisdom and perseverance of someone three times her age. She and her brother, Hans (Fabian Hinrichs), are revolutionaries who put out anonymous leaflets condemning Hitler and the war. They fight against the Nazi regime both because they value the sanctity of life, German or otherwise, and they know that there’s no way Germany can withstand the combined power of America, Britain and Russia. It is only a matter of time before their country falters.
Yet while secretly laying out the leaflets at school, both Scholls are caught and turned over to the authorities. And it is at this point that the film truly becomes Sophie’s story. It’s not necessary for me to relay the rest of the details, except to say that she faces the consequences of her actions with honesty and honor. The fact that the film is based upon actual found documents is significant. Although some sensationalization of the narrative is expected for all movies based on a true story, there is a sense of sincerity in Sophie Scholl that clearly manifests itself within the film. Yes, she develops a bond with her fellow cellmate, but never does their relationship turn into one of melodramatic sentimentality, a device that has been used countless times before just to pull on the heartstrings. And when Sophie is relentlessly questioned by the police investigator, although she eventually cracks his shell of nationalistic rhetoric, there is no attempt made on his part to free her. He has a job to do, and she will not turn against her cause. With remorse, he collects the evidence against her that will surely seal her fate, but still he continues on.
Sophie Scholl is an incredibly simple story, but an immensely important one. While watching it, I was awed not only by her courage, but also her humanity. She is a hero, but one to which we could all relate. She was an individual who was trying to make a difference by standing up for what she believed in. Films like this are incredibly significant because they bring to light that potential within us all. This film isn’t just another history lesson; it applies to today, to the here and now. It is a reminder that while it may be the easier, less frightening path to take by remaining silent when injustice dominates, it is within each and every one of us to stand up for what is decent and right. Heroes aren’t just projections of light and shadow that are shown to us in a darkened theater. They are flesh and blood, living beings that walk among us on the street, sleep in the house next door… Or they might just be looking right back at us in the bathroom mirror.

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