Munich, 1943: Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), a member of anti-war movment White Rose, is arrested with her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) for distributing leaflets denouncing the Nazis. Interrogated by the Gestapo, she eventually confesses all and is put on trial... These are the events portrayed in Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, a gripping true-life drama from Germany. Tightly focused on Jentsch's excellent lead performance, it may not seem as cinematic as Downfall, but the impact is similar.
Favourable comparisons can also be made with Carl Dreyer's 1928 masterpiece The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. Obviously, this is a mite chattier than its silent predecessor, the heart of the movie being the conversational battle of wills between Scholl and her interrogator Robert Mohr (Alexander Held). Based on unpublished archive transcripts, these simply shot scenes place a heavy burden on the actors, which they shoulder superbly.
Though at times the filmmakers present their heroine as Saint Sophie, Jentsch keeps her feet on the ground, shifting smoothly from cool denial to impassioned defiance without any histrionics. Meanwhile, Held strikes a memorably ambivalent note as the Gestapo inspector who scorns Sophie's convictions but admires her courage.
Alas, things become more black and white when we move to the courtroom, where proceedings are dominated by Andre Hennicke's raving Judge Friesler. Still, it's an undeniably rousing moment when Sophie spits back that he'll "soon be standing where we are now". And though the outcome isn't happy (clue's in the title, really), the film's claustrophobic intensity and emotional punch certainly deserve to be cheered.
In German with English subtitles