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Film / Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

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Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage) is a 2005 film from Germany directed by Marc Rothemund.

It is based on the true story of the anti-Nazi resistance group called the "White Rose". They 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. Also, in a meta example, Sophie's actress Julia Jentsch.
  • Artistic License – History: Little, thanks to the intricate research the crew did, but the policemen's uniforms, while from the right era, are Berlin uniforms. Bavarian policemen still wore blue coats and Pickelhauben at that time.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Well, obviously.
  • 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 of a Punch-Clock Villain.
  • 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."
  • Comforting Comforter: After Sophie curls up on her cell cot weeping, her cellmate Else Gebel covers her with a blanket.
  • 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]".
  • Didn't Think This Through: No one can deny her courage, but Sophie's reckless gesture of throwing a pile of pamphlets into the atrium of the University of Munich, just as the students are emerging from their lectures, was not a good choice.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Beheading, for distributing snarky leaflets.
  • 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"note , 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!)
  • False Reassurance: While imprisoned, Sophie is told by another prisoner that, even if she's found guilty, she won't be executed for 90 days according to the law. But after being found guilty, she's informed that she's to be executed that day.
  • 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.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The White Rose paid a heavy price for their opposition, but their last leaflet managed to get smuggled to the Allies, who printed it in the millions and airdropped it all over Germany thus sending a message that the Nazis could not completely suppress, and in doing so, securing the legacy of the efforts of the White Rose as great heroes of German history.
  • 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: Exists at times.
  • The Hero Dies: Sophie herself at the end.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Investigator Mohr certainly has shades of this, especially in contrast to the devoutly Christian Sophie.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Scholls and Probst are all Defiant to the End to their captors, interrogators and prosecutors, not that it does them any personal benefit in the situation. Any possibility of their survival in prison is erased by their resolute refusal to recant their beliefs in the face of the Gestapo.
  • 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: Sophie is given an opportunity to save herself from punishment for her anti-Nazi activities, if she gives a statement withdrawing her opposition to Hitler's regime and crimes. She refuses, and is executed.
    Investigator Mohr: For the record, I ask you, "Have you, after our conversations, come to the conclusion that your actions together with your brother is to be regarded in the current situation of war as a crime against society and in particular, against our hard fighting troops in the East, and must be harshly condemned?"
    Sophie: No, not in my opinion.
    Investigator Mohr: You wouldn't betray your brother by admitting your mistake.
    Sophie: But I'd betray the idea. I'd do the exact same thing again, because it is not I, but you who has the wrong worldview. I am still of the opinion that I did my best for my people. I don't regret it, and I will accept the consequences.
  • Jerkass: Freisler frequently insults and mortifies each of the three protagonists simply out of spite.
  • Kangaroo Court: Complete with an entirely cardboard defense, 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, old man in 1977.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: It's not mentioned in the film itself, but Judge Freisler would be killed in an Allied bombing raid in February 1945, when the ceiling of his courtroom in Berlin collapsed and crushed him. note  According to Luise Jodl, then-wife of Alfred Jodl, when Freisler's body was brought into the hospital, a worker not only remarked "God has given his verdict", but not a single person objected.
  • La Résistance: The White Rose.
  • Large Ham: The always screaming Freisler which was actually pretty much like this in real life.
  • The Last Title: The subtitle, The Final Days.
  • 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.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The efforts of the White Rose group to bring awareness and understanding to their fellow students and German citizens ends up getting them executed.
  • Off with His Head!: The three members of the White Rose are executed by beheading.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Scholls' faces when they hear the words "Halt! Stehen bleiben! (Stop! Stay where you are!)"
  • One Last Smoke: A sympathetic matron lets Sophie have a last moment with Hans and Christoph, and gives them a cigarette, which they pass around and take drags on before they have to leave for head-chopping time.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: 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 interrogator Robert Mohr, who is more of a Punch-Clock Villain operating under a depraved legal system, than an outright unrepentant fascist. 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: Sophie Scholl.
  • "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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: You might think that actor Andre Hennicke as Roland Freisler is overacting. He isn't. We have film footage of the real Freisler at some of his show trials, where Freisler makes Hennicke look positively subdued. And he really did conduct trials wearing a blood red robe and judge's cap.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Naturally, given the setting of Nazi Germany, but especially with the case of Judge Roland Freisler, who wears a blood red robe and judge's cap, as if he wasn't Obviously Evil enough as is. This is not an invention by the filmmakers, either, he really did wear that outfit.
  • 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).
  • Rousing Speech: While Sophie is at Gestapo headquarters, one of the agents asks to turn up the radio because he wants to hear the speech. Said speech is Joseph Goebbels' Sportpalast Speech, in which he called for support of total war following the defeat at Stalingrad.
  • 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.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Freisler does it a lot during the process.
  • So Proud of You: The last time that Sophie sees her parents, they tell her she and her brother did the right thing and that they're proud of them.
  • Sound-Only Death: The camera cuts to black just before Sophie's execution. We hear the guillotine fall three times a short delay apart, along with Hans hurriedly yelling "Es lebe die Freiheit!"note  just before the second drop. His last words are Truth in Television, although the executions were minutes apart rather than the mere seconds portrayed.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Gauleiter of Munich-Upper Bavaria gave a speech shortly before Sophie Scholl and her friends distributed their last leaflet, saying that female students should rather have children than study. note 
  • Strawman Political: Averted, except in the case of Roland Freisler (who was a Real Life strawman).
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Take a wild guess. The most animated of them, to put it mildly, in the film is the Kangaroo Court judge Roland Freisler.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: During interrogation, Sophie Scholl mentions the murder of disabled children by the Nazis, which fueled her anger against the regime
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea: Namely, that of a free, democratic Germany.

Alternative Title(s): Sophie Scholl