Five Last Days

By Kevin Thomas

It hardly seems possible to tell a story, a true one in this instance, of Nazi Germany that seems fresh but Adlon succeeds. Although there have been several films dealing with the resistance against Nazism within Germany, none is quite like “Five Last Days.” “Docudrama” perhaps best describes this picture, a rigorously understated account of the fate of a young student, played by THE NASTY GIRL’s Lena Stolze, who is arrested and detained by the Gestapo. Stolze also played the same young woman in THE WHITE ROSE.

wp0b8de777.jpg What is striking, in Adlon’s film, is the kindness with which Stolze is treated, both by her captors and especially by a fellow prisoner, a brave and caring middle-aged woman (Irm Hermann, a Fassbinder favorite in a rare major role).

Quite demanding on account of its appropriately unvarying low-key tone, it is disquieting on a couple of counts; first, as a depiction of the bureaucratic mentality as a source of evil. Also, the decent treatment Stolze’s student receives while awaiting whatever fate holds in store for her reminds us inescapably of how differently concentration camp prisoners were being treated at that very same time, which was early 1943.

AMAZON.COM, August 12, 1999

Plot Summary

By J. Hailey

In the Wittelbacherpalais, Munich’s prison and Gestapo center, middle-aged Else Gebel awaits trial for carrying anti-Nazi material. She serves as a clerk in the Gestapo office. On Thursday, 18 February 1943, two youths arrive at the prison, arrested for carrying anti-Reich pamphlets, suspected of dropping leaflets from the university’s lobby gallery, and painting anti-Hitler signs along Ludwigstrasse: Sophie, 21, and her brother Hans, 24, just back from the Russian front. Sophie is housed with Else, and for five days, as Sophie is interrogated and charges brought, the women form a bond based on simple interactions: poetry, tea, shared clothing, courage, love, and a promise Else gives Sophie.

Viewer Comment

Ed Balbier, Philadelphia, PA

Great movie about youth. Outstanding film. More likely a play than a movie. Coupled with the excellent movie, THE WHITE ROSE, this film adds to the tale of Sophie Scholl and the underground student resistance movement at Munich University in 1942 - 1943. The acting is superb. And from what I have found out through interviews of people who were there; realistic. This film is easy to find in Philadelphia... Hopefully, it is easy to find elsewhere.


Waiting for the Death, Percy Adlon’s film about Sophie Scholl

By Walter Fenn

That’s the way it is with Percy Adlon films: What you mostly remember after seeing them are images, not situations. No, it’s not even the images themselves, it is the faces of people, which in special moments of a sustained shot totally open up to the viewer. This was the case in Adlon’s first feature, CELESTE, a very gentle cinematic tale based on the diary of Marcel Proust’s housekeeper; there too, with Eva Mattes, were these moments of absolute mimic presence of quiet liveliness on a woman’s face. And it’s again the case in Adlon’s second great film “Fünf letzte Tage” (Five Last Days), this from Michael Verhoeven’s THE WHITE ROSE in so many ways different version of the shocking subject that seems almost impossible to adapt cinematically. Adlon knew as well as Verhoeven h o w difficult it would be to deal with the subject, and that is why he went totally defensive and created a quiet cinematic kammerspiel (chamber play). Far more than Verhoeven did, who still maintains a lot of action and even suspense in an outward sense. […] Adlon speaks of “Five Last Days”, which is, not coincidentally and not unintentionally, a generalization: These are the five last days of a young person spent in a prison cell. A five day wait for the death. Today, on February 22, 1982, is the anniversary of this death, the fortieth anniversary of Sophie Scholl’s execution. And so it is first and foremost again a film about this particular person, about this Sophie Scholl – played here by Lena Stolze even more impressively than in the Verhoeven film. This film limits itself consistently to prison scenes, the cell which Sophie shared with another woman, Else Gebel, who later will be released and write down what happened in those five days she spent together with Sophie Scholl. On her notes Adlon’s script is based.

This film completely avoids Nazi brutality. It is also in this a very humane film as its characters (at least those visible in the picture) are very human. Nothing of what we have been handed down from documents about Gestapo prisons happens in this Gestapo prison. Is this admissible to show humanity at a place of inhumanity? Does that not mean a belittlement of horror? I believe not. I don’t believe it‘s a belittlement of horror when a storyteller or filmmaker leaves traces of humanity where they indeed were still possible: in a corner, in the quiet cells, in the antechambers of hell, while outside, in hell, in the courts of law of the Volksgerichtshof, in those rooms where the real catchpoles ravaged, inhumanity reigned the more openly and brutally. No club-swinging Gestapo man thrusts into the (quiet) dungeon of Sophie Scholl and Else Gebler, no brutality invades it; the “senior clerk” in the prison administration is a fine, soft spoken man, ready for compassion, even though he is a convinced Nazi. With his intention to diverge from the cliché, Adlon goes all the way to the edge of the possible. […]