Dir. Marc Rothemund. Ger.2005. 120mins.
Previously the basis for two previous German features, thestory of wartime freedom fighter Sophie Scholl again reaches the screen - thistime in competition at Berlin - with the added draw of new and as yet unpublishedevidence which purports to throw additional light on her case.
Scholl, played here by JuliaJentsch (The Edukators), which was also in competition last year), wasone of the leaders of the White Rose student underground, caught by the Nazisin February 1943 while distributing anti-war leaflets and executed six dayslater. Since then she has become a emblematic figure of German resistance toHitler's regime during World War Two.
As such, Sophie Schollis bound to appeal first and foremost to German audiences eager to review theirown history (as evidenced by the recent success of Downfall). Festivalswill find it a useful addition to their programmes, although foreign marketsmay be less receptive.
During her interrogation,Scholl at first bravely lied, almost convincing Gestapo inspector Robert Mohr(Held), of her innocence. Only when she realises that her brother Hans (FabianHinrichs), caught at the same time as her, has confessed all does she proudlyclaim full responsibility for her deeds, in a bid to save their otherassociates.
By the third day of theinterrogation she has entered an ideological debate with Mohr in which sheeasily defeats all of his pro-Nazi arguments, while rejecting all hissuggestions that she save her neck by blaming others.
In a classic mock trial,Scholl, her brother and a friend are condemned to death - but not before shehas had her say and told the judge (Hennicke) that one day it will be he whowill be stood in the dock.
Despite obvious goodintentions, Breinersdorfer's script is written like a TV play that says all theright things but does not bring many new elements into the big picture nor makemuch use of the medium, resorting to talking heads for the dialogue.
While the film's historicalaccuracy cannot be debated - the Gestapo minutes on which the script relies arestill to be fully published - the overall feeling is of an earnest and seriousbut not very exciting work, didactically put together for academic reasons tofill in the gaps of textbooks.
Insights are not alwaysdramatically helpful nor even ideologically revealing, and good and bad, rightand wrong, are too heavily underlined.
Julia Jentsch offers anadmirably controlled performance, particularly in her confrontations with Mohrand makes for a much more determined and level-headed Sophie than Lena Stolze'semotionally overt interpretation of the same character in both MichaelVerhoeven's White Rose and Percy Adlon's The Final Five Days(both 1982).
Meanwhile Alexander Held, asMohr, the faithful servant of the system who believes freedom is a small priceto pay for order, proves an interesting departure from the classic Gestapomonsters of the past.
However Andre Hennickerestores the balance in his heavily overstated role as Judge Friesler, a ravingmaniac spouting Nazi propaganda at the top of his voice.
Prod cos: Goldkind Film, Broth Film
Prods: Christoph Mueller, SvenBurgemeister, Fred Breinersdorfer, Mark Rothmund
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film Int'l
Ger dist: X Verleih (Warner)
Scr: Fred Breinersdorfer
Cine: Martin Langer
Ed: Hans Funck
Prod des: Jana Karen
Music: Johnny Klimek, ReinholdHeil
Main cast: Julia Jentsch,Alxander Held, Fabian Hinrichs, Johanna Gastdorf, Andre Hennicke, FlorianStetter, Johannes Suhm, Maximilian Bruckner, Jorg Hube, Petra Kelling, FranzStaber