Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

After decades of war movies, in which Germans are depicted as wolves in wolves' clothing, along comes two films that change the perception of a nation brainwashed by evil. The first is Downfall, which tells of Hitler's last days in the bunker, and now Sophie Scholl, the true story of anti war protesters in Munich in 1943.

Although both were made in Germany, with exceptional actors, Sophie Scholl is not as big a film, which is not to say it is of less consequence. Shot with simplicity and clarity, often in empty spaces - a prison cell, the great staircase of an old university, the echoing hall of the ministry of justice - it becomes a battle of wills between a 21-year-old girl and a middle-aged interrogator (superb performance from Gerald Alexander Held).

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Sophie (Julia Jentsch), her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) and a handful of friends operate a clandestine printing press. They write pamphlets, criticising the Third Reich for continuing the war in the face of certain defeat. For the sake of the motherland, they plead, stop the killing.

They know the dangers. They could be arrested and charged with treason, the ultimate penalty being death. They post the pamphlets to addresses in the suburbs, rather than risk handing them out in the streets. Hans is frustrated by this method and insists that in the history of national unrest, it is the student body that fuels revolution. He wants to take the pamphlets to the university and distribute them. The others consider this an act of madness, but Hans is determined, accepting full responsibility. Sophie says she will go with him and carry the papers in a suitcase, because "they tend not to search the girls."

The tension of this apparently simple operation is acute and it doesn't let up for the rest of the movie. Director Marc Rothemund believes in the power of implication, rather than the shock of violence. These Nazis, or rather the men who work for them, are sticklers for protocol. Everything requires a form and a signature. Without these, the interrogator says, chaos would reign.

Sophie's courage is remarkable.

Even to write such a sentence undermines the integrity of the film. This is not about courage so much as conviction and the conscience of a single person in an intellectual battle for the higher moral ground, not that it counts in a system corrupted by the blood of the innocent.

At the end, as the credits roll, there are photographs of the real Sophie. She is smiling in a swimsuit, or rather laughing, and her eyes are alive with life. What is missing in Jentsch's performance, if anything is missing, is a sense of fun.

Reviewed on: 28 Oct 2005
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The true story of anti-war protesters in Munich in 1943.
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Director: Marc Rothemund

Writer: Fred Breinersdorfer

Starring: Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Gerald Alexander Held, Johanna Gastdorf, Andre Hennicke, Florian Stetter, Johannes Suhm

Year: 2005

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Germany

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If you like this, try:

Downfall
The Lives Of Others