Monday, February 06, 2006

Film: “Sophie Scholl: The Last Days”

Or – Belle & Sebastian Meet TEH NAZIS, given the nice cardigans and things that the kids wear. Scholl’s story is famous. She and her brother were part of an ineffectual resistance group in Munich during the Second World War. They posted anti-war leaflets out to people and painted occasional bits of graffiti on walls. Then they got a bit cocky and decided to leave their leaflets in the university some of them studied in. Unfortunately, a janitor saw them and snitched them up to the cops. The film follows Scholl over the two or three days from the group’s copying up the leaflets on a Gestetner duplicator, to her arrest and execution a couple of days later. The film is a very effective portrayal of the small ways in which people can face down terrible evil.

You could maybe question why the filmmakers felt the need to focus on Scholl rather than any of the more active people in the group, but I suppose attractive young women sell films. Also, the contrast between her and the pompous and nasty Nazis is very striking. The trial scene does this particularly well. This was meant to be a political show trial where the Nazi regime would strike terror into its internal enemies. Instead, the defendants, and particularly Ms Scholl, exposed the farcical nature of proceedings by denouncing the court and saying that the judges would themselves be on trial in a couple of years. This was not dramatic license on the part of the filmmakers, as everything I have read about the case suggests that Scholl and her brother delivered impressive speeches from the dock that must have been deeply embarrassing to the hard-assed Nazis hearing them. Of course, this did not save them from being beheaded (the day after the trial), but that was probably inevitable from the moment they were arrested, so they were right to go out with a bang.

With this and “Downfall” it is like there are suddenly some top films about the Third Reich coming out of Germany. It is great that the Germans are reclaiming their history and are able to make films which deal with this period in a nuanced and complex manner.

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