Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for February 25 through March 3 is Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), which is available to digitally rent on Amazon.
This past Wednesday, February 22, marked 74 years since the Nazi regime used a guillotine to execute Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old university student.
Scholl was an anti-Nazi activist with the White Rose resistance group, which practiced nonviolent activism. Motivated by a staunch faith (Scholl was raised Lutheran, and then was influenced by the sermons of Cardinal John Henry Newman), she distributed leaflets against the war with her brother Hans at the University of Munich — an offense for which she was convicted of high treason, imprisoned, and then executed.
After the war, Scholl became well-known in Germany for her activism against the Nazi regime. And in 2005, her story was made into a film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. The movie was eventually nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and earned its director (Marc Rothemund) and star (Julia Jentsch) the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as numerous other awards, including at the European Film Awards and German Film Awards.
The film is remarkable partly because it draws directly on police records of interrogations of Scholl, both before and during her incarceration. Those records had been unavailable for a long time, but screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer used them to reconstruct Scholl’s final six days, and thus craft a true profile in courage.
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a remarkable movie, both for how it brings life to a historical character and for how it demonstrates steadfast, nonviolent resistance, animated by religious and political conviction. Scholl’s youth stands in sharp contrast to her commitment, seriousness, grasp of her beliefs, and resolve, and it’s impossible to watch the film without being motivated to stand as well.
In his review of the film before its American release in 2006, the New York Times’s Stephen Holden mused:
How would you behave during the kind of relentless interrogations that Sophie endures? If sentenced to death for your activities, would you still consider your resistance to have been worth it? In a climate of national debate in the United States about the overriding of certain civil liberties to fight terrorism, the movie looks back on a worst possible scenario in which such liberties were taken away. It raises an unspoken question: could it happen here?
Surely no country is immune to that fate — and so the question is perennially worth musing. But this is also a great film, about a young woman who took an important stand against tyranny and paid the price. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a fitting tribute and memorial to its heroine, who died 74 years ago — and it has lessons for us today.
Watch the trailer for Sophie Scholl: The Final Days: