Film: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
aka: Sophie Scholl
2005 German film, originally titled Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage
, based on the true story of the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance group
, who were active in Munich
from June 1942 until February 1943, when six of their most prominent members were arrested and executed. The film depicts the arrest, interrogation, trial and ultimate execution of their most famous member, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, along with her brother Hans and friend Christoph Probst. All of which takes a grand total of four days
The film won three prizes at the Berlin Film Festival (including Best Actress for Julia Jentsch), and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards
This is not the first time that the exploits and fate of the White Rose movement have been depicted on film, but the 1982 West German
production Die weiße Rose
, while a hit in its country of origin, is virtually unknown to foreign audiences.
This film contains examples of:
- All Germans Are Nazis: Well and truly averted. Sophie claims that the fact is Most Germans Are Afraid.
- Alliterative Name: The eponymous Sophie. Although her middle name is Magdalena.
- Badass Pacifist: All the White Rose activists. As Sophie proclaims during her trial "We fight with words."
- Bittersweet Ending: The trio are executed and the remaining members of their resistance movement are mercilessly hunted down and either executed, imprisoned, or deported to concentration camps, but one of their pamphlets is successfully smuggled out of Germany, to be mass-produced and dropped from aircraft by the Allies, and in any case, the audience knows that the regime is on its last legs and the free, democratic Germany that the movement envisions will indeed come into being.
- Black and White Morality: To be fair, it really doesn't get much more black and white than "Pacifist College Students vs Nazis". Sophie's initial interrogator, however, is portrayed as being somewhat reluctant
- Brother-Sister Team: Sophie and Hans.
- Chewing the Scenery: The tone of the entire film is quite understated and subdued, so it comes as something of a Mood Whiplash when André Hennicke appears during the court scene as the fanatical Judge Roland Freisler, the only Nazi among the characters to whom one could reasonably apply the label "wacky". Truth in Television, by the way.
- Chummy Commies: Sophie's cell-mate Else Gebel is a communist, but she nonetheless strikes up a friendship with the devoutly Christian Sophie, and at one point claims "Communists look out for one another."
- Curb-Stomp Battle: A handful of pacifist university students versus a murderous fascist regime that had already conquered most of Europe? If you're still having trouble placing a bet, the film's subtitle should clue you in.
- Deadpan Snarker: The movement's leaflets simply drip with snark, as for example when they commend "The Führer's brilliant strategy which sent 330,000 German troops to a senseless death [in Stalingrad]".
- Disproportionate Retribution
- Doomed Moral Victor: It goes without saying that Sophie Scholl and her fellow Widerstandskämpfer are considered national heroes in modern Germany.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: During Sophie's interrogation, as she espouses her commitment to democracy and the equality of all human beings, Investigator Mohr laments her "misdirection", and claims that, as she is young, it may be possible for her to be re-educated and released back into society. She then recounts her training as a nurse, when disabled children across the country were taken away to be murdered.
Sophie: You think I wasn't raised right, because I feel pity for them?
- Face Death with Dignity: Sophie, Hans and Christoph are resolute and calm throughout the show trial and even as they are led to their deaths. Sophie is the first to be taken to the guillotine, and as she is taken from her companions, she smiles and says "The sun is still shining."
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Sophie and Hans each give one out. After the death sentences are handed out by the Kangaroo Court, Sophie tells Judge Freisler "You will soon stand where we stand now", and in one of the final scenes, just before the guillotine's blade severs his head, Hans yells "Es lebe die Freiheit!" (Long live freedom!)
- Females Are More Innocent: The White Rose take advantage of the Double Standard by allowing Sophie to carry the case full of pamphlets on her person, as it is easier for women to get through SS control points.
- Foregone Conclusion: Despotic regimes don't take kindly to criticism. Even the title knows these students don't stand a chance.
- Germanic Efficiency: Employed to chilling effect by the Gestapo. As stated above, four days. In fact, it is precisely because of their meticulous record-keeping that it was possible to reconstruct the last days of Sophie Scholl and her fellows with such accuracy - a large portion of the film simply consists of actors reciting the interview transcripts and official reports made during the event.
- Gratuitous English: The opening scene of Sophie and her room-mate Gisela singing along to a record of Billie Holiday's "Sugar". Terribly.
- Hanging Judge: Roland Freisler, president of the People's Court, who in three years was responsible for the majority of death sentences handed out by the court. Also, he's really loud.
- Heartbeat Soundtrack
- The Hero Dies: Sophie herself at the end.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Judge Freisler and Investigator Mohr are probably best know to English-speaking audiences as General Monhke and Walther Hewel, respectively. Julia Jentsch also briefly appeared in the first scene of Downfall as one of the secretarial applicants, although audiences will most likely recognise her from her role in The Edukators.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Minor example. Else Gebel, the political prisoner who is depicted as a fellow antifascist and as sympathetic to Sophie's plight, was in reality most likely a Gestapo mole. Also, arguably, communism itself by virtue of being anti-fascist, despite the fact that the Soviet dictatorship employed the same tactics of terror deplored and denounced by the White Rose. Neither point is ever touched upon.
- Justified in Else's case since the entire film is told through Sophie's POV. If Else was a Gestapo mole, Sophie would've had no way of finding this out in the time she had left.
- Hollywood Atheist: Investigator Mohr certainly has shades of this, especially in contrast to the devoutly Christian Sophie.
- Honor Before Reason
- Hope Spot: The Scholls are almost released from the Gestapo HQ, but a search of their apartment yields concrete evidence of their resistance activities.
- I Have a Family: With the full support of the Scholl siblings, Christoph Probst pleads for clemency on the grounds that he has three small children and a sickly wife who has just given birth. It doesn't work.
- Insane Troll Logic: Judge Freisler's ranting during the trial is this trope.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Else and Sophie
- I Regret Nothing
- Kangaroo Court: Complete with an entirely cardboard defence, and presided over by the wackiest, shrillest, most fanatical Nazi they could get their hands on.
- Karma Houdini: Robert Mohr was briefly interned by the French in 1947, but ultimately never stood trial for his activities as a member of the Gestapo, and died a free, an old man in 1977.
- La Résistance
- Manly Tears: Christoph, frequently, out of fear for his wife and children.
- My Death Is Only The Beginning: The White Rose were convinced that the obviously draconian measures taken against them for merely handing out leaflets would inspire the people of Germany to passively resist the Nazis en masse.
- My Girl Back Home: Sophie herself. Her conviction that her fiancé Fritz is suffering and risking his life in Stalingrad for an utterly depraved regime is one of her driving motivations.
- Nazi Germany: The setting, obviously. Munich, to be precise.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
- Off With Their Heads!
- Oh, Crap: The Scholls' faces when they hear the words "Halt! Stehen bleiben! (Stop! Stay where you are!)"
- One Last Smoke
- Ordinary University Student: One of the remarkable characteristics of the White Rose is just how unremarkable all of its members were. Sophie and her co-conspirators were perfectly ordinary students from perfectly ordinary families attending perfectly ordinary lectures and with perfectly ordinary hobbies and interests. The could be mistaken for any of the thousands of idealist students from universities around the world, save that they were living in a time when to be politically dissident was to risk one's life.
- Pet the Dog: A lot of moments between Sophie and Robert Mohr, who is more of a Lawful Neutral operating under a depraved legal system, than an outright villain. She is about the same age as his own son and he makes several remarks to the effect of "I would have raised you differently." He is genuinely distressed at the thought of this young person throwing her life away, as he sees it.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Robert Mohr, Sophie's interrogator, is pretty sexist. Leaving aside the obvious, that is to say.
- Protagonist Title
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: All three activists, but Sophie in particular, spend a good chunk of the film thoroughly destroying the claims to legitimacy of Nazism and its supporters.
Hans: If you and Hitler were not afraid of our opinion, we wouldn't be here.
- Red Is Heroic: Sophie's outfit make this an odd case where the trope appears side by side with Red and Black and Evil All Over (courtesy of the setting's regalia, naturally).
- Reality Is Unrealistic: You might think that actor Andre Hennicke as Roland Friesler is overracting. He isn't. We have film footage of the Real Life Friesler at some of his show trials where Friesler makes Hennicke look positively subdued.
- Say Your Prayers: Devout Lutheran Sophie pauses to pray several times, including just before her execution.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Sophie's argument against the legalism of Mohr, albeit in fewer words. Summed up by the following statement;
Sophie: Laws change. Our conscience does not.
- Secret Police: Much of the film consists of Sophie's interrogation by the Gestapo.
- Sound-Only Death: The camera pans away just before Sophie's execution. We hear the guillotine fall three times, along with Hans screaming, "Es lebe die Freiheit!"
- Spirited Young Lady: Sophie ticks a lot of the boxes, being a young, middle class, confident, Christian intellectual defying a regime that labelled the women's rights movement "a product of the Jewish intellect" (And That's Terrible).
- Strawman Political: Averted, except in the case of Roland Freisler (who was a Real Life strawman).
- Those Wacky Nazis
- Tragic Mistake: At Sophie's behest, the Scholl siblings leave every single one of their antifascist pamphlets in plain sight at the university and she also turns back to throw a pile of the leaflets from a balcony in a dramatic (and quite arguably unnecessary) gesture. Ultimately, the two leave themselves no time to escape.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Sophie, Hans and Christoph, although in this case the girl of the trio is the principal character.
- Velvet Revolution: What the White Rose hoped their arrest would spark.
- You Cannot Kill An Idea: Namely, that of a free, democratic Germany.
- World War II
- Worthy Opponent: Mohr certainly thinks so of his prisoner. All the Gestapo personnel who came into contact with the White Rose were reportedly impressed by their calm defiance.