(aka "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" or ">Sophie Scholl -- Die Letzten Tage" )

 

directed by Marc Rothemund
Germany 2005

Much of post-WWII German cinema has been set in contemporary times (especially German New Wave) or in the distant past. However, in the first decade of the 21st Century, several noteworthy movies have directly examined historical moments that defined today’s Germany. Two recent examples are Downfall, about Hitler’s last days in his Berlin bunker, and Good Bye, Lenin!, about East Germans dealing with the burying of their identities after the re-unification of Germany.

Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days is yet another German cinematic soul search. After WWII, the Germans were basically forced to say, “We’re sorry for being the bad guys” over and over again. The Germans essentially weren’t allowed to mourn for their losses (since their soldiers died for the “wrong” cause), and the Allies decided that there weren’t any “good” Germans between 1930 and 1945. Still, the remarkable story of Sophie Scholl and The White Rose began to surface, and at least two movies were made about Scholl and her brief life. Sophie Scholl is the first of these biopics to be based on recently released documents that were locked away by the East-German government.

In Sophie Scholl, Sophie and her brother Hans are arrested for distributing an anti-Nazi leaflet in a German university during WWII. Miraculously, both hold up well during interrogation, and their lies corroborate each other. They are on the verge of being released when the authorities find additional evidence of anti-Nazi activities in their apartment.

Sophie Scholl unfolds in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way like Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday and United 93, though director Marc Rothemund did not mimic Greengrass’s camerawork and editing style. Like Greengrass, Rothemund does not editorialize; he simply presents characters as they go about their business. Therefore, we don’t get a lot of background details about Sophie Scholl or her brother (even during the interrogation sequences), though the movie gives us enough information for us to understand why the Scholls had opinions that were so different from other Germans’.

Julia Jentsch has numerous awards for her performance, and she does an excellent job of conveying Sophie Scholl’s remarkable self-control under pressure. Sophie literally does not crack (except for a brief moment when she finds out that she has a few hours rather than 99 days to live). Jentsch indicates Sophie Scholl’s nervousness with a few well-planned eye movements and mouth twitches, but since her facial expressions could be interpreted as reactions of relief, Jentsch shows how the real Sophie Scholl might’ve fooled her interrogators during the early stages of ordeal.

Most of the mid-section is focused on Sophie Scholl’s time with her interrogator, Robert Mohr. The dialogue was taken from transcriptions of their discussions, and both Julia Jentsch and Alexander Held are memorable for giving their complex characters many shadings despite the brief temporal frame (the movie covers Sophie Scholl’s last six days). Towards the end of their time together, Mohr begins to respect Sophie Scholl for her composure, her refusal to back down in the face of intimidation, and her belief in basic moral decency. Alexander Held makes Mohr’s subtle transformation credible and believable.

The final third is dominated by Andre Hennicke’s scary performance as Judge Roland Freisler. Dressed in red robes, Freisler/Hennicke embodies the “blood justice” of the Nazi regime. Freisler was eager for Hitler’s approval, though most of the top Nazis held Freisler in contempt. Therefore, perhaps to ingratiate himself with Der Fuhrer, Freisler imitated Hitler’s hysterics-laden style of speechifying. Freisler’s style of “communication” is laughable under ordinary circumstances, but this was a real man with real power in a real country. Freisler embodied the terrifying nature of Nazi rule--the ridiculous and the unthinkable were the norms.

The movie is commendably low key in many ways, including its presentation of very normal people whose community leaders are raging lunatics. However, one aspect of the production--the music--irritated me. For some reason, the moviemakers decided to use music cues that would be appropriate for thrillers. Undoubtedly, the first third of the movie does work as a thriller, but the performances and the real-life aspect of the story generate plenty of tension. The “sentimental” music that plays when Sophie is alone reflecting on her predicament also sounded out of place. All of the movie’s strongest moments don’t have any music, diegetic or non-diegetic; listening to the actors’ line deliveries and the actual words spoken were enough to make me sit on the edge of my seat.

Yunda Eddie Feng

Posters

Theatrical Release: 13 February 2005

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DVD Comparison: 

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Yunda Eddie Feng for the Review and Region 1 captures!

(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

 
Distribution

Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC

Drakes Avenue

Region 0 - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:55:36 2:00:32.642
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.65 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 33,862,361,088 bytes

Disc Size: 45,691,811,832 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Average Bitrate: 37.46 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : Zeitgeist

Bitrate  Blu-ray

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 surround German LPCM Audio German 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• U.S. theatrical trailer
• thirteen deleted/extended scenes
• making-of documentary
• interviews with relatives and associates

DVD Release Date: 14 November 2006
Keepcase

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Drakes Avenue

Aspect Ratio:
1.78:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Feature: 33,862,361,088 bytes

Disc Size: 45,691,811,832 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Average Bitrate: 37.46 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer
• 13 deleted/extended scenes (36:26)
• Making-of documentary (54:58)
• 3 historical interviews with relatives and associates (56:54)

Blu-ray Release Date: October 27th 2008
Standard UK Blu-ray case (slightly thicker)

Chapters 18

 

Comments NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray - December 08':

NOTE: This disc is region 0 and will play on Blu-ray machines around the entire world without any region-locking encumbrances.

I suppose everything is relative but I'm at a loss to explain the previous reviewer's claims of the Zeitgeist DVD being 'very clean and sharp with strong, natural-looking colors'. Even prior to the comparison with this Region free - the North American DVD looked hazy to me with dull, lifeless colors. Drakes Avenues' high-definition transfer further supports the Zeitgeist DVD weaknesses. Red hues in the fourth large captures or later in the Nazi flags are a telltale of how vastly superior the Blu-ray represents the film color-wise. The DVD is faded and looks more orange (actually far 'less natural'). With the ghosting of the DVD - detail is drastically improved in the 1080P disc. In fact all visual attributes are not even close with Blu-ray being a substantial winner even showing slightly more information in the frame on all 4 edges.

I'd have to admit though that the Blu-ray image doesn't excel in comparison to other modern film-to-hi-def offerings. It appears stronger than SD-DVD and has an occasional glimmer of depth but is mostly less-than-pristinely sharp with a relatively flat look. This, of course, may have either been intentional - or just the way the film itself looks. I expect the latter to be true with no fault of the dual-layered transfer of over 32 Gig for the film and supporting a bitrate of close to 38 mbps. I do note instances of grain and minor noise - neither in abundance.

The LCPM track offered on the Blu-ray sounds pretty tight and clean and there are optional English subtitles available.

Extras mimic the DVD with the extensive 'Making of...', Deleted Scenes, a trailer and Interviews (see below) - each in German with burned-in English subtitles. While nothing is in HD these extras are all accessible on region 'A' machines. There is also a 4-page leaflet with a short essay on the Sophie Scholl.

The film is tremendous and a very worthy addition to my Blu-ray library. It's always so wonderful to have such superlative cinema looking as tight and film-like as this. STRONGLY recommended!

Gary W. Tooze   

***

 

ON THE ZEITGEIST DVD: This is an excellent DVD presentation from Zeitgeist. I was impressed by the high technical quality as well as the substantive nature of the extras.

Video:
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is very clean and sharp with strong, natural-looking colors. However, it looks like the video was taken from a PAL source that was converted to NTSC. Ghosting is noticeable if you pause and freeze frame through the movie, and the video was mastered with interlace rather than progressive scan.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround German audio track offers excellent clarity. This is a dialogue-driven movie, so unlike a lot of action/adventure flicks, the sound mix does not suffer from loud sound effects that bury actors’ voices. You also don’t have to adjust the volume up and down since you’re not going to be startled by unwelcome explosions every few minutes. Still, I had to dial down the volume a little during the courtroom scenes because the guy playing the rancorous judge shouted and shouted and shouted.

I want to make a special note of the piano music that plays while the menus are displayed. The audio for the menus has been authored with such transparency and crispness that it feels like there is a piano right behind your TV.

Optional English subtitles support the audio.

Extras:
--Side 1--
The only extra on Side 1 is the U.S. theatrical trailer.

--Side 2--
The first extras are a collection of thirteen deleted and extended scenes. The best of these are the “complete” courtroom interrogations; this allows you to compare and contrast the “rough edits” versus the “final edits”.

The hour-long “The Making of Sophie Scholl” is a compilation of behind-the-scenes footage as well as candid reflections by members of the cast and crew about their experiences. For example, Julia Jentsch describes her reaction to seeing someone eating a sandwich in a morgue.

Finally, there is a collection of interviews with relatives and associates of the people portrayed in the movie. The interview with Sophie Scholl’s sister includes footage of Judge Roland Freisler from another trial, and this footage confirms that the actor playing him in Sophie School was NOT over-acting.

All of the extras are in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with optional English subtitles.

--Miscellaneous--
An insert booklet provides chapter listings, information about The White Rose leaflets, an interview with the director, and DVD production credits.

My copy of the DVD is housed in a white keep case. I assume that Zeitgeist wanted the color white to be noticeable in honor of The White Rose.

 - Yunda Eddie Feng

 

 



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(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 


(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Future Film - Region 2- PAL (NO ENGLISH SUBS) TOP vs.  Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


(Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 


  (Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Drakes Avenue - Region 0 - Blu-ray BOTTOM)

 

 

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Distribution

Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC

Drakes Avenue

Region 0 - Blu-ray




 

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