Review: Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, 2005)

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Emotional impact, but it feels too artificial and insincere!

Written By: Fred Breinersdorfer
Directed By: Marc Rothemund

For those of you who are getting tired of my World War II reviews, fear not I have a marathon of WWII films on the way so plenty more will be coming. Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage will not be included in that marathon, and that is why I finally decided to give this Oscar nominated foreign film a spin. The subject of actual German uprising against the National Socialist Party isn’t oft touched upon, but undoubtedly when it is Sophie Scholl is the subject of the narrative. This creates a scenario where the subject matter is a nice change of pace from the typical WWII fare, but at the same time it is another trip to a historical setting with the same character. Because of that there isn’t much, if anything, that Marc Rothemund can do originality wise. He does make efforts towards being original and that is one of the areas where Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage ends up falling short.

The first problem arises in Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage as the titular character traverses the streets of a very artificial looking Munich. It is too bright, looks far too much like a film set and is exceedingly vibrant with color. I realize this was done to put it at odds with the drab and muted colors of the interrogation office and cells that Sophie occupies. But, it is not a wise choice because instead of creating a contrast it creates a whole area of the film that looks artificially created, almost like a CG backdrop city from a science fiction show. This continues throughout the film and is one of the faults of Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage that the film can never shake off.

The sessions between Sophie and Mr. Mohr begin as rousing tete a tete, but soon devolve into manipulation by Rothemund. Sophie shows sophistication beyond her years and in their verbal sparring you not only side with her but are impressed with her resolve and intelligence. However, when Mohr cries out “there is no God” and Sophie turns from a witty orator into a historical expositionist the sessions begin to fall apart. Mohr’s cry about god is frank manipulation on the part of Rothemund, and writer Fred Breinersdorfer, because the Nazis were not atheists by and large, and that exclamation merely exists to make the viewer believe God and religion lies on the side of Sophie and not the Nazis, as if any god would actually choose sides in a man made war. The exposition is both sloppy and also another attempt to manipulate the audience. Instead of allowing the events to play out for themselves and for the audience to naturally sympathize with Sophie the filmmakers choose to lay down historical Nazi atrocities so that the viewer is now being told who to sympathize with. There are also some false moments, such as the arrival of Sophie’s parents in court, the final get together between the freedom fighters in jail and the film not ending with Sophie’s death, instead opting for blackened out and unnecessary beheading’s beyond Sophie.

For as much as the above is true, I did very much like the initial verbal sparring matches between Sophia and Mohr. I also quite liked the courtroom scene up until the arrival of Sophie’s parents and the basic message of the movie. The message may end up forced in places, but there are still many moments where that message rings true and isn’t forced, such as the courtroom scene. The lack of actual drama also worked for me because I never read this film as a drama picture, but a more a historical retelling of a terrible crime committed and a statement on how important freedom of speech actually is. That is why scenes like the ones with the parents bursting into court didn’t work, they were an attempt to add drama to a film that wasn’t playing for drama.

Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage gets a passing grade from me. It isn’t the best film about WWII, or the best film about Sophie Scholl, but it is a well acted series of set pieces. Some work, some don’t, but I believe that the overall message and theme was conveyed in a respectable fashion and that there was more to like about Sophie Scholl – Die Letzten Tage than there was to dislike. This isn’t a film that you need to run out and get, but at some point in the future it is good enough for a viewing, maybe it can even be included in a WWII marathon of your own, but that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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