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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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German movie highlights example of heroism, bravery

In February 1943, a German student peacefully fighting for humanity and human rights was arrested, interrogated, tried and executed within a week.

The film "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" brilliantly captures the mentality of the eponymous heroine, the sole female member of the White Rose underground resistance group, as her courageous life came to an abrupt end after she was caught distributing pamphlets denouncing the Nazi regime.

Director Marc Rothemund, predicted to nab an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, held a question-and-answer forum after last Tuesday's screening of the movie at the Orpheum.

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"Everything you see is 100 percent true," he said. "I wanted to bring the original words of Sophie Scholl back."

Rothemund had discovered unpublished Gestapo documents concerning the questioning and sentencing of Scholl. He had also interviewed eyewitnesses and was able to contact friends and family of members of the White Rose. As a result, "The Final Days" accurately depicts the unwavering bravery and loyalty the 21-year-old Scholl (Julia Jentsch) exhibited as her life suddenly slipped away from her. With the help of a seamless relationship between director and actress, Sophie Scholl's character and unwavering heroism unfold in the first scene.

The entire movie is narrated through Sophie's perspective, depicting her state of mind after she and her brother are suspected of distributing seditious pamphlets throughout the halls of a university building in Munich.

The Scholls were arrested at the university and brought to Gestapo headquarters, where, after grueling accusations by Investigator Mohr (Alexander Held), Sophie's denial of her participation is nearly flawless. But evidence mounts against her, and, after learning of her brother's confession, Sophie too admits to her participation, adding she is proud of what she did.

Sophie, however, did not actually write any of the six pamphlets that she helped distribute in the months before the group's collapse. Mohr, consequently, gave her opportunities to alleviate her guilt. If she confessed to blindly following her brother and admitted her mistakes, her sentence would be eased. Sophie refused, claiming she was just as guilty as her brother. And it was this courageous loyalty that inspired Rothemund to create a movie filmed through Sophie's eyes.

"Sophie was the youngest member. She was the only one who had a chance to save her life," he said.

The other members of the White Rose had fought on the eastern front and witnessed the horrific and inhumane murders of women and children. Sophie, however, had simply heard the horror stories and thought those stories were convincing enough to risk her own life.

"It is more emotional to identify with a character who had not eye-witnessed what was going on … but was curious," Rothemund added.

After her confession, Sophie and Mohr engage in one more cat-and-mouse debate, this one concerning the flawed Nazi ideology. It is here viewers witness the human side of Mohr, who, unlike Sophie, is consumed by fear. Held beautifully portrays a man oblivious to his own evilness yet still vulnerable, a man whose thoughts and actions are derived not from his conscience, but the rulings of a faulty regime.

Rothemund wants viewers to regard Hitler and his followers as human. This allows people to see through their flawed ideology and doesn't detach their corruption from a history that is slowly slipping away.

"It is far too simple to say Hitler was evil, Hitler was a monster," Rothemund stressed. "There were two little babies. And from one baby grew Hitler and from the other baby grew Sophie."

Sophie, Hans and fellow member Christoph Probst were almost immediately sent to trial, where a hostile judge deemed them guilty of high treason and sentenced them to death. The judge also refused the obligatory 99 days between sentence and execution, sending the three young adults to the guillotine that night.

"The judge believed that every hour they stay alive, they fight against us," Rothemund later explained.

The movie opens with Sophie and a friend gleefully singing along to a forbidden Billie Holiday record and ends six days later with the dropping of the guillotine blade. Sophie's final words, echoed to her brother and Probst, were, "The sun is still shining." Despite the tragic farewells to her parents and her brother, despite the unwritten good-bye letter to her fiancé, despite the untimely deaths of three passionate and courageous individuals, the movie resonates with a sense of hope.

"Hope is a very important thing," Rothemund said. "These were quiet, ordinary people who raised up for human rights. … I'm glad this movie touches the hearts of people around the world. And I hope it's not just for the present, but also for the future."

Teaching the future, Rothemund stressed, was his main goal.

"The young generation has to admit to the war crimes to teach the future," he said. "Let's hope the next generations continue to make their own movies."

Rothemund lastly stressed the importance of civil participation, no matter how small it may seem.

"Civil courage isn't always a matter of life and death," he said.

Rothemund passionately encouraged his audience to be inspired by Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement and to always follow its conscience, no matter the circumstances.

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