Monday, 16 May 2016

Films #37 + #38: Victoria (15) and Sophie Scholl (PG)

Victoria (15) 

Released: 2015 
Directed by: Sebastian Schipper

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (PG)

Released: 2005
Directed by: Marc Rothemund
Original title: Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tagen 

I appear to have missed the boat on writing about Victoria – I actually watched it when it first came out at the start of April, but didn’t manage to write anything before I took off to Japan for a month. My review wouldn’t have been very long anyway because it would be very easy to spoil the plot. In a nutshell, Victoria (Laia Costa), a Spanish woman working in Berlin, befriends a group of German guys as she prepares to head to work after a night out. Their initial chatting and flirting soon develops into something deeper and more dangerous.

I’m basically going to echo most of the other reviews I’ve read – it’s great! I liked the fact that it was shot in one take (particularly the piano playing) and really enjoyed seeing Berlin on the screen again. As a Brit and a non-native speaker of German, I also loved the way the characters swapped between German and slightly broken English. Victoria can’t understand the guys when they switch to German, and I think this works even better for audience members who speak German and aren’t relying on the subtitles to follow the film.

On the face of it, Sophie Scholl – a true story with a tragic end – has very little in common with Victoria. However, they both boast great central female performances. Set in 1943, Sophie Scholl opens with Sophie (Julia Jentsch), her brother Hans and their fellow members of the White Rose resistance group preparing texts critical of Hitler’s regime. When they run out of envelopes, Sophie and Hans offer to distribute them at their university. Thanks to an officious janitor they are quickly caught, and from here on the film mainly consists of two-handed scenes: Sophie and her interrogator; Sophie and her cellmate. In this respect it reminded me of 13 Minutes, the film about Georg Elser that I reviewed last year.

In her interrogations with Gestapo officer Mohr, Sophie denies her involvement and pretends to be apolitical. Julia Jentsch perfectly captures the emotions Sophie initially tries to suppress then allows to flow at full force once she has nowhere to run. Her objectives then switch to protecting her friends and family from a similar fate and explaining precisely why she refuses to prescribe to the Nazi world view. A final court scene is frustrating and anger-inducing as we watch one-sided “justice” being served. 

One loud and vibrant, one quiet and understated - Victoria and Sophie Scholl are both worth a couple of hours of your time.

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