Sophie Scholl; Dir. Marc Rothemund. 2005. 120mins. Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs.

Finally, a solid WWII drama to answer the question, “Where were the good Germans?” In February of 1943, as news of devastating losses in Stalingrad sends shockwaves through Germany, a group of Munich students known as the White Rose clandestinely prints leaflets appealing to the conscience of their fellow citizens and predicting the ultimate demise of the Third Reich. Jentsch and Hinrichs portray siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl, whose utter guilelessness gets them apprehended rather early in the film. The interrogations and courtroom scenes which make up the bulk of the film are notable for the defendants’ unflagging ability to provoke moments of doubt in their hard-nosed bureaucratic Nazi captors, even if only shown as a twitch of the lip. Charges of “demoralizing the troops” have an unfortunate ring even today. Indeed, the central action of the state against a few dissidents is blown open into a struggle between competing views of the will of the German people – “total war” vs. peace and absolution. Jentsch seems to channel Joan of Arc, praying for divine guidance against all hope in her jail cell as air-raid sirens wail outside. Although parts of the script seem pulled from a high-school history lesson, Sophie’s compassionate appeals to the dignity of all life – whether Protestant, Jewish, mentally-handicapped or “normal” – seem to momentarily reverse the roles of prosecution and defense. A favorite Orwellian conceit in depictions of totalitarian societies is the chilling split of families when indoctrinated children report parents engaged in subversive activity. Here we have nothing less than the triumph of family bonds over the fear-mongering state, made all the more poignant as the exercise of this family’s values demands the ultimate sacrifice.


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