Sophie Scholl (UK - BD)
Our Marcus investigates war drama Sophie School on this Blu-ray Disc...
Sophie Scholl (or Sophie Scholl: The Final Days) tells the story of German girl, Sophie (Julia Jentsch), who lives in Munich with her Brother, Hans (Fabian Hinrichs). They are both part of the secret student protest organisation, the White Rose, and plan to copy and mail out their latest anti-war leaflet to citizens. Then, Hans decides to leave piles of the leaflets at the local University and really get their message across.
Sophie chooses to aid her brother and with piles of leaflets tucked into a suitcase they go about leaving their highly illegal handouts dotted across the university’s main hall while all the students are in classes. This all goes to plan until the siblings are captured by the Gestapo and the interrogations begin...
World War II is prime territory for movie making and Sophie Scholl certainly doesn’t feel any less interesting or historically important despite focussing on some of the lesser explored elements of the war. To have a very well handled look at the workings of law within war-time Germany without getting into the soldiers and mistreatment of minorities elements that we're more used to, was far more compelling than I thought it could have been and Sophie’s story seems to be one that should be more well known because of its extremities.
Once again this isn’t what you’d expect from a movie that involves trying to break down a suspect to confess to a crime. Nazis in general have been presented in every which way on film, from basic mistreatment through to cruelty and even all the way out to occult worshipers—there really are a million and one angles in which the Nazi image has been presented but almost none of that is here. What Sophie Scholl offers is some very precise, very well paced, ground level interrogation, which mainly comes in the form of conversations between Sophie and Gestapo Investigator Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held). The conversations are handled incredibly well by the director and feel as realistic as they are tense without ever slipping into the darker areas of this era. In fact, all things considered, Sophie is treated pretty well in her capture.
As the integrations build and all of Sophie’s work with her brother is uncovered, Sophie’s character really begins to shine. Having the sheer courage to argue the darker Nazi underbelly of her investigator and to watch his ever so slight but believable reactions to hearing these horrible details, without having him back down is really what makes this movie what it is. Gerald Alexander Held's performance is really the one that tied me into the movie. He’s stern, harsh, organised and a nice representation of the Nazi attitude without playing on a uniform or any clichés. His small moments of understanding or even sadness are so subtle and more so believable, that it brings an added level of drama to work that really takes a fine actor to pull off with such grace.
Sophie Scholl has a story that is worthy of being told. A country’s treatment of its own in a time where its people needed to stand up for what they believed in is always one that you can get involved with as a viewer. Sophie Scholl certainly isn’t as brutal or as disturbing as many other movies in its genre, mainly due to the PG rating, but that doesn’t make this young girl's experiences or fate any less engaging or even shocking.
This isn’t the best HD transfer I’ve ever seen. In fact nothing really calls attention to itself in the HD department at all. Colours are sometimes bright, but mostly muted, there’s a slight presence of grain and even a few surface marks but generally detail isn’t really anything to shout about despite being a fairly sharp image.
There are a few exceptions, most of which consist of nice representations of textures in clothing, scarves, coats and jumpers. Colours and scenes generally look quite natural and small moments remind you this is an HD experience. This could all very well be down to a stylistic choice to make the film fit better into its era or indeed a budget constraint, but either way this transfer isn’t out to be a standard setter and makes the best of what it has to offer.
Despite only being presented in PCM 2.0 Stereo, I have to say that I rarely felt as if Sophie Scholl was held back by these limitations. The soundtrack—which has big scenes of tense repetitive drums to build the tension—never felt hampered by its two speaker presentation, filling the room with sound and really creating an atmosphere.
The dialogue is incredibly clear and strong, tones sound realistic (especially from the many Nazi shouters in the movie) and the balance of score and speech always felt as if they were working well together, rather than fighting against each other.
I really don’t feel as if Sophie Scholl would have benefited much more from a wider speaker set up at all. The mix seems to provide the movie with exactly what it needs and I was actually quite impressed with what it managed to provide considering its restraints.
Before we even hit the disc, there’s a great little two page ‘Directors Statement’ in the insert. It’s a good little read and it's refreshing to see some dedication to having an insert be more than a mere chapter listing or advertising tool. This is too much of a rare occurrence of late.
Whilst I found a majority of these wealthy features very interesting, they might turn away the casual features viewer. ‘The Making of’ (54:00) is as much about the movie as it is the history it’s based on. There’s a lot of on-set filming but it all comes backed up with a solid understanding of the era and really compliments the movie well.
Probably the most interesting of the extra features, which for full effect may require a solid interest in the history of this story or this element of the war, are the interviews with some of the people whose lives the events affected. There’s a White Rose member, the nephew of Sophie’s cellmate, Inspector Mohr’s son and even Sophie and Hans' sister. All of these interviews come with a lot of personal insight and are fine inclusions to this disc. As a little bit extra, there’s even some archival footage of one of the trials held by the Germans and the inclusion of this is really quite fascinating, showing that the depiction in the movie wasn't making these trials out to be any more ludicrous than they were in reality.
There are also a selection of deleted scenes (36:26), as well as the trailer.
Sophie School proves to be an alternative angle to an era that usually has its focus elsewhere. This isn’t so much a movie about the effects of war but a look at a person with strength, will and belief in what was right—a person who remained true to her beliefs until the bitter end.
Sophie Scholl is a great movie with some fine performances all round and whilst I probably wouldn’t rush back for a repeat viewing any time soon, it’s certainly a little-known gem that deserves a look see by anyone with a keen interest in World War II and its many personal stories.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 27th October 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo German
Extras: Trailer, Making of, Interviews, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Marc Rothemund
Cast: Julia Jentsch, Gerald Alexander Held
Genre: Drama and War
Length: 120 minutes
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