On February 18, 1943, a 21-year-old German student named Sophie Scholl was arrested, along with her brother, Hans, for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at the University of Munich. Over the next four days, Scholl was interrogated by the Gestapo; she adamantly denied involvement and was nearly released, until incriminating evidence was unearthed in her apartment. She then accepted responsibility for her actions and, at a hastily convened show trial, defended her political beliefs before a hostile Nazi judge. Scholl, her brother and another friend were pronounced guilty and executed by guillotine that very afternoon, February 22.
Based on unpublished interrogation records and courtroom minutes, Sophie Scholl—The Final Days re-creates this chilling historical episode as an earnest feature film. When we first see Sophie (Jentsch), on the eve of her arrest, she is a carefree girl, singing along to a mindless ditty (“I call my baby sugar”) on the radio. But she calmly accepts the danger of distributing political leaflets on campus—she and Hans (Hinrichs) are members of an underground student resistance movement—and when she is face-to-face with a seasoned Gestapo interrogator (Held), we witness both her cleverness in deflecting blame and, ultimately, the clarity of her moral convictions. Jentsch avoids sentimental overplaying throughout; she makes us believe that unexpected courage might be found in the most ordinary of souls. (Opens Fri; Film Forum.)—Tom Beer