February 22, 2018 will mark the 75th Anniversary of the execution of 21-year-old German student Sophie Scholl. To commemorate the life of this largely unknown young activist, The Frida Cinema presents the acclaimed 2015 historical drama Sophie Scholl – The Final Days.
An Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Sophie Scholl recounts the last days in the life of Scholl (Julia Jentsch), a member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group that her brother Hans helped form, the White Rose. Dedicated expressly to the downfall of the monolithic Third Reich war machine as Hitler continued to wage war across Europe, the members of the White Rose were horrified, and further galvanized, when White Rose Member Fritz Hartnagel witnessed Soviet POWs being shot in a mass grave, and learned of mass killings of Jews. Driven to educate Germans on the covert war crimes being committed, The White Rose distributed pamphlets urging citizens to passively resist the Nazi government, using both Biblical and philosophical support for an intellectual argument of resistance they referred to as the “”theology of conscience.” On February 18, 1943, Scholl and the rest of the White Rose were arrested for distributing their sixth leaflet at the University of Munich; days later, they were all found guilty of high treason by the People’s Court, and executed just a few hours after.
Following her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the UK by German jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, where it was used by the Allied Forces. In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of propaganda copies of the tract, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich. Of the manifesto, playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag wrote in a Newsday article, “It is possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the twentieth century… The fact that five little kids, in the mouth of the wolf, where it really counted, had the tremendous courage to do what they did, is spectacular to me. I know that the world is better for them having been there, but I do not know why.”
Armed with long-buried historical records of her incarceration, director Marc Rothemund expertly re-creates the last six days of Sophie Scholl’s life – notably her cross-examination by the Gestapo, which quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl, unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to the White Rose, delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless. Praised by critics and audiences worldwide for its searing portrait of a young hero with almost unimaginable courage and conviction, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days received three Lolas (the German equivalent to the Academy Award): including the Audience Award, the Silver Prize for Best Film, and the Best Actress Award to Jentsch for her brilliant characterization of the title role. The film also won two Silver Bears for Best Director and Best Actress at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.
“The film holds us rapt not through narrative suspense but through the eerie and demanding spectacle of profound moral courage, of a powerless good person in collision with absolute evil.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
“There’s a resonance to Sophie Scholl that crosses borders and approaches the timeless.” – Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
“It is powerful, straightforward, utterly without pretense and very, very moving.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go – but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
– Sophie Scholl
May 9, 1921 – February 22, 1943