A unique take on Nazi Germany

by Kaori Shoji

Filmmaker Marc Rothemund says of the German film industry: “The environment has never been more suited to making quality films. Young people are now avidly watching German films whereas 10 years ago the theaters were all about Hollywood productions. And, surprisingly, there’s a great demand for historical stories like ‘Sophie Scholl.’ ‘

Rothemund believes that his generation (he’s 38) is probably the first since World War II to want to know more about the Third Reich. “To ensure a future, one must first face the past,” he said, during a promotional visit to Tokyo. “For myself, the story of Sophie Scholl was one that needed to be told, no matter how difficult the task.’

In your opinion, what kind of a woman was Sophie Scholl?

I think that she was extremely life-affirming, in a way that most of us can only dream of being. Until the very last minute of her existence, she had a great zest and appreciation for life. I think it was because of this love for life that she chose her fate. She valued it very highly and therefore refused to lie or scheme in order to prolong it.

There have been two other movies made about the White Rose resistance group, but neither was so personal with an unexpected depth to the character of Sophie’s interrogator, Mohr.

Three things made this movie possible: the fact that since the late 1990s many of the transcripts of Gestapo interrogations were made public. We were also able to interview Sophie’s older sister Elizabeth who published an account of Sophie’s life and who was kind enough to supply us with personal information and precious family photographs. And finally, we were able to interview Robert Mohr’s son Willy, who was sent to the front lines just at the time Sophie was arrested. He gave us a very detailed portrait of his father.

There’s been some criticism in Europe that the film is too distanced from Nazi politics and atrocities, concentrating too much on the characters.

I won’t deny that the distance is there. . . . I wanted to mute that aspect of the story to create something that audiences of today can truly relate to. That is why I used as little as I could of Nazi depictions; no footage of Hitler or marching soldiers, no uniforms and very little Nazi emblems. I wanted to tell the story through the eyes of Sophie, during the final days of her young life. This is her story and her movie.