Julia Jentsch plays the young woman who joined her brother and friends in the White Rose, an anti-Nazi student organization; they wrote several tracts that were circulated until they were caught and several members of the group, including Scholl, were executed. German director Marc Rothemund delved into her story for his dramatic feature debut.
The L Magazine: What motivated you to do this film? Marc Rothemund: The only motivation I had was an interest in finding out what happened in these last final days to this 21-year-old woman. It was just a personal interest. I started researching without being sure I was going to make a movie about it. I’m glad that this is one of the few movies that isn’t always about the man in uniform and the blonde clichéd guys. I think it’s much better to share this time and identify with a person that was a quite normal young woman, to see this time through her eyes. Of course, I could have chosen one of the other members, but she was the only woman. She was the youngest.
All the other members of the White Rose were witnessing the murders of children [on the Eastern Front in Russia], and they reported it to her. It’s also easier to identify with someone who was not witnessing by herself and to get the reports. She was a really interesting person.
The L: Were you surprised about the information you discovered concerning Sophia Scholl? MR: It’s the reason why I made the movie, because I was so surprised to find out so many things. In Germany, she’s a heroine, a martyr. After her arrest, she was so courageous. But you find out she’s lying in the beginning of the interrogation. She’s fighting for her life. She’s says that she’s not involved in these leaflets. I found this out by asking the last living sister of Scholl. I found out so much about her education at home. I found letters and diaries about her belief in God. I found out so many things about this character that I was sure no one in Germany knew about, though everyone knows who she is. We have 190 schools in Germany that are named after her.
The L: Did you find other people to use for information? MR: I learned a lot about my grandparents for example. My grandmother was a Nazi too. She was a sports lady, so the Nazi’s pampered her and sponsored her; her big dream was the Olympic games in 1940. In ‘36 she was too young. She was a champion in athletics and had a lot of money and a very good life, so she always said “Heil Hitler.” She was a convinced Nazi, and ignored where the money came from. She wasn’t interested in [details]. She took the profit and the training. In Germany and even in Japan it was common for that generation [to look the other way]. Now they have such a bad conscience that they refuse to talk to their own grandchildren about it. And this the last generation now where I can personally ask eyewitnesses.
The L: Are you going to the Oscars? MR: We are an Oscar [nominee] for Germany but I don’t have the right to hope for something like that because we already won so many prizes and last year’s Berlin Film Festival was so great. Last year Downfall was nominated for an Oscar but I’m still looking for the message of Downfall.
The L: You didn’t like Downfall? MR: It was a very important movie that shows Hitler was also a human being. It also shows how if there are two babies, one can become a Hitler and one can become a Sophie Scholl. To show Hitler as a human being is very important. But I like to have movies with a guy that I can identify with. I don’t like many movies with men in uniform. It’s a very important movie but I think the message of Sophie Scholl and the performance of Julia Jentsch is more important and more international.