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Colonia Dignidad – An Experiment in Terror and Behavior Modification

Posted by E on April 18, 2016

Emma Watson Colonia

If you’re planning to see the new Emma Watson film Colonia, please don’t watch the trailer first. Punctuated by the groan-inducing line “When they took her man”, this has to be one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. Its weakness resides in the fact that they take an empowered, arguably feminist main character and make her out to look like a desperate flower, someone who cannot survive unless she finds “her man”. But since I’ve just told you not to think of a pink elephant and piqued your curiosity, here’s the trailer so you can see for yourself:

Hollywood is no stranger to using contrived romances that push the boundaries of cheese in order to serve up an important social or political event as backdrop. Think the fictitious, ill-fated romance of Jack and Rose to showcase the spectacular sinkability of the most unsinkable ships of all, the Titanic. But there’s a fine line between using romance to build up a film and gratuitous humping, and that line was blurred for the first 12 minutes of Colonia, as Lena and Daniel went at each other worse than the cats in heat outside my place at night. Fighting against the urge to hurl a glass of cold water at the screen and shout “Break it up already!”, I gritted my teeth and stuck it out. (Am I showing my age here or what?) Oh, and to all of you asking on YouTube if Emma gets nude in this flick, sorry to disappoint.

It took a while for the movie to get better. It didn’t help that the main characters’ downfall begins with a series of utterly idiotic moves. Hey – there’s a violent riot outside! Let me grab my camera, run right up to cops in combat gear and shoot photos of them beating up people! No way are they going to kick my head in or beat up my girlfriend! Oh, and just keep standing in the front row at prisoner roll-call when the wiser move would be to blend at the back of the crowd and hope you won’t get noticed, especially since you’re a political activist and agitator.

But alas, after the lovebirds (or cats in heat, depending on your perspective) get separated, Emma Watson’s Lena sacrifices herself by travelling to Colonia Dignidad in an attempt to infiltrate them. Note: I’m not spoiling the movie here since the trailer basically gives it all away.

Without any solid proof that her boyfriend is still alive or even at Colonia anymore, Lena stays for an unbelievable 130 days working slave labour in scorching fields, spending long days without any water, being beaten up by a matronly, sadistic female camp guard. By then, anybody in their right mind would’ve left already or at least made serious attempts to fly that coop. Instead, Lena purposefully – or shall I say masochistically – manoeuvres to get beaten up (and potentially murdered) at the men’s gathering in a fleeting attempt to see if Daniel is among them.

Colonia movie Emma Watson

OK, so reading this far in my review you might think I really hated it, but you’d be wrong. In truth, Colonia isn’t bad at all (though it had potential to be even better). Its strength lies in the second half, the part that is based on fact rather than fiction – when the full horror of the camp begins to unfold. The brainwashed residents, the hard labour, the dirndls and Eva Braun-type of bun-braids, the children wearing lederhosen who are separated and isolated from their families and grow up not knowing who their parents are.

This was a gripping film with amazing cinematography and a very effective build-up of tension. These days, you practically have to make a deal with the devil in order to shine a spotlight on an issue everybody would otherwise have ignored – the devil in this case being the Harry Potter brand incarnated in Emma Watson, who I should say did a great job with what she was given. The harrowing ending was particularly intense and well-executed.

I’ve always believed that the true mark of a good movie is the lasting impression it has on you – how long it stays in your mind after you’ve left the theatre. Also, that it should teach you something you didn’t know before. This movie checks both these all-important boxes: it lingers with you as well as makes you think and want to learn more, which makes it a success.

I am grateful that it got made, despite the contrived love story and the fact that these days you can’t make a film about an important issue or historical event without the backing of a Hollywood A-lister. In this day and age, being a “celebrity” (i.e. someone who reads lines written by others and performs on cue, like a trained seal) has more weight than the scientists silently toiling away in labs across the world to discover the cure for cancer or dementia. But I digress.

THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE FILM

colonia-dignidadAlthough I’m fairly familiar with the history of the ex-Nazi diaspora and the communities they established across South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, I hadn’t heard about Colonia Dignidad before I watched the film. Now called Villa Baviera (Bavarian Village), in its heyday (and under the leadership of Nazi psychopath Paul Schafer) it was home to hundreds of residents. The 137 km property was surrounded by barbed wire fences, searchlights and a watchtower, and was full of weapon caches and explosives, serving as an impromptu prison for political dissidents brought there by Augusto Pinochet‘s DINA, the Chilean Secret Police.

My immediate thoughts after the movie (and my gut impression) was that there had to be more to Colonia Dignidad beyond providing a means for ex-Luftwaffe officer Paul Schafer‘s cold-blooded sadism and his sexual abuse of children. I know Wikipedia says it’s considered to be a cult of some sort, but this was (and possibly still is) more than just a cult.

Certainly this is evident in the German government’s tacit approval of Schafer’s methodologies, his connections with people high up in the German embassy, as well as deep roots within Pinochet’s secret police. A man who is simply an egomaniac pedophile wouldn’t have this sort of clout. No, there had to be much more to this place for him to get away with all that he did.

It seems to me that Colonia was both a continuation of the concentration camp model, as well as an experiment in behaviour modification – both at the macro and the micro level. Prisoners were brought in and were never seen again. It’s clear that torture happened, but given the cultish obedience and knee-jerk reflex of fear instilled in the residents, the colony may have been a living laboratory in mind control.

Colonia Dignidad Villa Baviera originalI don’t like to throw words like “mind control” around lightly, because there are far too many nutcases and conspiracy theorists like the folks who hang out on Godlike Productions and think a secret brotherhood of shape-shifting reptiles rules the world. The term “mind control” is synonymous with all sorts of crazy, despite the fact that there’s no denying the truth behind Operation Paperclip and the experiments that were carried out both in the West and behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War years.

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to – both the CIA and Simon Wiesenthal have presented evidence that shows Josef Mengele had resided at the colony for some time in the 1960s. Mengele was just one of several other high-profile Nazis to have stayed there, the other being Martin Bormann, once the highest ranking Nazi in the world after Adolf Hitler. According to historian Ladislas Farago, Bormann lived for a period of time in seclusion at Colonia Dignidad, having “sought a place where he could be at peace.”

There is something sinister about Colonia Dignidad that leads me to believe this was a place where behavior modification experiments happened, if only because the doctrine was rooted in brainwashing of its residents and because medications were often administered, along with severe forms of punishment. But it was also connected with the disappearance of political prisoners who were transported there and were never seen again.

Boris WeisfeilerI think there is more than meets the eye because of the length of time – decades – that Schafer and his goons were able to operate with immunity. Even after Boris Weisfeiler, a Russian-born American mathematician, disappeared and was believed to be murdered by Colonia residents, it took until 2012 (and after Schafer’s death) for a judge to call an indictment against eight retired cops and others involved with the disappearance.

And just one month before the movie Colonia was released, Weisfeiler’s case was deemed a “common crime” whose statute of limitations had passed, and was officially closed.

It’s not difficult to speculate as to the reason why.

Pinochet ruled as dictator of Chile until 1990, but remained the army’s Commander-in-Chief until 1998. The 1970s, 80s and 90s were not that long ago. Many of the officers involved in Pinochet’s regime are well-established men now, men whose power likely still extends all the way up to Chile’s current government. Clearly, there are too many who might have something to lose if the facts behind Colonia Dignidad come out, and they will do everything in their power to sweep the truth under the carpet.

 Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Chile

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My take on the Schapelle Corby case – the brothers did it

Posted by E on July 1, 2008

All day yesterday I waited with anticipation for a documentary that would air on the Movie Network later in the evening: Ganja Queen – the Schapelle Corby story.
In preparation, I looked her up on Google and caught up on the details of the case: in 2004, an Australian girl in her late twenties is caught in a Bali airport transporting a boogie board filled with ten pounds of marijuana. After several trials, the supreme court of Bali last year upholds the original verdict: twenty years in prison (with about a year taken off for time served). By the time the documentary aired, I had a prima facie assumption of guilt. And then I watched an hour and a half of a completely, fully-biased, pro-Schapelle film.

Ok, so after weighing both sides, this is what my gut tells me: the brothers, particularly the younger one, who was seventeen at the time, planted the pot in her bag. Upon doing some more research, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one to think so – Corby’s very own ex-defence lawyer, Robin Tampoe, appeared in another documentary, which aired in Australia just this past week – and what did he say?

“Look at the brothers. Just look at her brothers. […] These are the biggest pile of trash I have ever come across in my life. I have never seen a more ungrateful, nasty piece of work than this woman (Corby’s mother, Rosleigh Rose) and this family.”

It seems to me that, while coming off at points as a teensy-bit arrogant, Schapelle wasn’t stupid enough to fill up her own bag with the largest quantity of dope Bali has ever seen. However, her younger half-brother did have access to the bag, and carried it for sometime the very day of the arrest. Also, while she was tested for drugs and was cleared, nobody bothered to test this brother, and lo and behold, a year later, a police raid of his house turns up copious amounts of pot and he is charged (get this!) not only with drug possession in large quantities, but also beating up two known drug dealers.
His defense – uh, I was just beating them up to get them to, you know, tell me who framed my sister.
Hmmm – I suppose this is why he stored their dope in his own house also?…ya right.

Watching her family on television, I was struck at how perfectly, how utterly and fantastically perfectly they fit the “White Trash” mold. If there was ever a family in which a set of brothers would let their sister rot in jail for them, thinking “Well, she’s a girl, so she’s getting off easier than we would…only twenty years ain’t so bad”, this would be them.

Only two questions remain:
1. DID she know that her brothers were involved?
AND
2. What other stupid moron would ever attempt to smuggle drugs in southeast Asia (a continent where drug-smuggling can be punishable by death or life imprisonment)? The jails are filled with mules (mostly young women talked into it by a boyfriend) and idiots who think they won’t be “the one” who gets caught, that somehow they are smarter, luckier, etc. It’s pretty sad.

I propose an idea to every parent whose kid is about to go off backpacking in foreign lands – sit them down and make them watch, just once, a marathon of these 2 movies: Midnight Express (especially for guys) and Brokedown Palace (all girls take notice). I’m not kidding. Trust me, it may save their lives.

Posted in asia, expat, life, movie, news, press, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

WTF is the problem with Young People F*cking?

Posted by E on June 13, 2008

As so many of you are aware, a little independent film, which may or may not have any artistic value (I haven’t seen it yet, and even if I did, my subjective opinion has no bearing on this post) has splashed into the news, solely because of its cheeky title: Young People F*cking.

Now I don’t really know anything much about it except having heard some convoluted news reports involving Canada Arts Grants and public outrage, of the sort that goes something like: “Is this what our tax dollars are going to,” yadda, yadda, yadda.

Not that I find Arts Grants judges to be much more than an inbred, pat-each-other’s-backs sort, but ask yourself this: If this title should have been called any of the titles below, would anybody in the media have batted an eye, never mind sensationalise it to such a degree that now it is receiving top billing at film fests (as the filmmakers undoubtedly intended)?
Young People Killing
Young People being raped and murdered by psycho cannibals
Young People dismembering each other
Young People blowing each other’s heads off
Young People being torn to shreds and eaten by wild dogs
Young People being murdered by eccentric millionaires in Slovakian torture chambers
Young People being disemboweled by crazy hillbillies
Young People being hunted down by serial killers at roadside stops
Young People cannibalizing each other

Well, what do you think? Would Bill C-10 approve of any of the above? Most likely, if it’s anything like the garbage being produced by Hollywood and the television industry over the last few years? So — how many of those titles I just listed sum up any of the films you might have seen over the past year or so?

Of course, all of that gory, gross stuff is nothing compared to the rather insipid, vacuous act of Young People Fucking.

Well, at least it wasn’t called Young GAY People Fucking. It wouldn’t even make it past the screening room.

Posted in canada, censorship, commentary, culture, gay, media, movie, movie review, news, political correctness, politics, rant, thoughts, violence, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Porn vs. Violence: why is murder on tv ok, but we can’t watch porn during primetime?

Posted by E on September 27, 2007

In the wake of new video games that glorify combat violence, as well as the increasing popularity of gruesome TV shows like CSI and Numbers, I feel the need to take on the old question I’ve always asked myself: why is violence “sexy” on tv and in the movies, while nudity is considered risque and bordering on obscene? In other words, why can’t we watch porn during primetime?

As a regular, thinking individual with no predisposition toward any “moral” or religious reasons behind my formulation of opinions, I have to really ask:

Why isn’t sex and nudity mainstream on television? Why, instead, is violence, murder and dismemberment so popular? Sex is a natural act for human beings; it is something we will all engage in at some point. And of course, we come into this world naked and leave it the same way. So why is nudity considered obscene? Why are pornographic movies not played on mainstream television? The reality of porn is that it is a seeking of pleasure, an unabashed, rutting seeking of gratification and pleasure. Why is it wrong? Yet serial killers who rape, maim and kill are depicted on prime time every night?

I remember being about six years old and visiting my parents’ friends who lived in Sweden. One night, while the adults were busy talking, one of my playmates picked up the remote control and started surfing the channels. This being Scandinavia, porn flicks were not limited to the after midnight only rule, so we randomly discovered a show where a man was taking a woman’s dress off and licking her breast. I was fascinated to see such a thing – I always thought that only babies nurse at their mothers’ breasts, so why was this grown man doing this?

Suddenly, my mother flew into the room and proceeded to freak out. She covered my eyes and grabbed the remote control, muttering intelligibly about this being “dirty”, terrible stuff. I tried to ask what the two people were doing, but she just wanted to have no part in explaining anything. No discussion ever took place, but I understood that there were terrible, unspoken things that men and women did which involved being naked.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, I am a pre-law university student studying criminal psychology before CSI ever made it out of a nutcase producer’s feverish brain. The only risque shows on television were Law & Order, which now pales in comparison to the more disturbing trend of tv and movies such as Saw, Hostel, Irreversible, the Hills have Eyes, High Tension, Wolf Creek, The Departed, and even Passion of the Christ, which is basically a snuff film rapped up in religious zealotry.

As I studied the profiles of serial killers in my class, I never once found it to be a glorious and exciting event. Volunteering inside prisons, where I talked with women who killed their children, I never thought that in just a few short years the university’s Criminology program would be teeming with Forensic Inspector-wanna-bees who unabashedly would declare that their interest was first aroused by shows like CSI.

Why is it so fascinating for people to see limbs being severed, eyes being gouged out, entrailes removed, torsos crushed with hammers and pick axes, and women being raped and tortured, yet mainstream porn films which show women enjoying themselves be considered so wrong? Why does everyone assume that porn is the “gateway drug” to crime, when in reality only a minuscule number of porn-watchers become actual rapists? And how many of those rapists actually got off on violent films, using the realism involved in television portrayals of torture and murder as feeding fodder for their imagination?
I would rather my child watch a porn film anyday before allowing her to see half the primetime shows on TV.

These violent movies and video games on a subconscious level begin to change you. They are destroying a new generation of youngsters, robbing them of their own humanity, since it is humanity itself that is being degraded, mutilated, and has its soul ripped out for bloody entertainment. We have travelled back into the dark annals of a gory Roman time where the only form of entertainment was to see massacres and blood flowing through the acqueducts of Colloseum forums.

The dead are no longer human; they are things you look at, but no longer comprehend that they are like you. The tortured, the dismembered, the grotesquely murdered are only entertainment.

Yet anything to do with the beauty of the naked human form, with its enjoyment of the senses, and yes, this includes sex, is being puritanically and categorically censored. Even in the Middle Ages all the way up to the Impressionist era, the beauty of the human form was pursued in creative outlets. Only this “advanced” century would have Michaelangelo’s David and his Sistine Chapel nudes censored in elementary schools.

Just two weeks ago Facebook banned several women who had uploaded photos of themselves nursing their babies. Under the auspices of these photos being “Obscene” since they involved a partial view of a woman’s naked breast, the Facebook gestapo would rather believe that babies nursing is a sick act, unnatural, immodest and dirty.

How low has this society come, for people to regard natural life aspects like sex, childbirth and nursing as something to be held privately, behind closed doors, yet unnatural blood and gore as exciting, fun and gratifying entertainment?

I would not want to be a child growing up in this violent, irrational time. I dread to think of the effects on their maturing psyches. In this age, murder is no longer taboo; it is something that gets you on TV.

In this age, to be a celebrity you just have to be an anorexic rich walking imbecile, a pop singer or an actor. Should you invent the cure for cancer and HIV, should you discover new constellations, write great novels and dance like the wind, you are certain to go to your grave without being a coffee-table name. But if you shoot a few people on a university campus, you can be sure to have your name on a collectible trading card.

Sad.

Posted in censorship, children, commentary, culture, facebook, media, mother, movie, nudity, sex, thoughts, tv, violence, wtf | 10 Comments »

Death in children’s movies: the loss of innocence as a subversive agenda in Hollywood

Posted by E on August 20, 2007

pets dog and cat

Although I don’t have children of my own, I used to be a children’s English teacher while working in Asia. I learned to enjoy watching movies with my class and discuss them as part of our conversation exercises. So while I don’t teach anymore these days, whenever I want to relax, I surf the channels for a family movie. I enjoy the simple entertainment and the lack of violence, dead bodies and forensic obsession that has infested regular television channels on a nightly basis.

So tonight, as I was going through the sparse choices for a movie on television tonight, I spotted a movie about two kids hiding a dog in their apartment. But these days, as a precaution before I watch any films involving animals, I did a cursory look-up of the title on the net; there is hardly anything I hate more than to watch something that has me emotionally-invested, only to find out the dog is run over by a car at the end.

Sure enough, a movie reviewer described being in the theatre seeing this particular movie, when a sad turn near the end had all the children in the audience sobbing. I’d heard enough, and I decided to watch something else.

But not before I wondered why Hollywood has decided to kill off all the animals in its movies. In mainstream films aimed at more mature audiences, dogs/rabbits/cats are murdered by crazy neighbours or obsessive stalkers a la Fatal Attraction. And in children’s films, even those churned out by Disney, the pets die as a lesson to children about how sad things happen in life.

I once again reflected on the sad state of “family” films these days. A happy ending has now become an oxymoron for any film involving pets. In the last year, there were only a couple of films involving animals where the poor beast was not killed: albeit they involved horses that were at some point injured or close to death (i.e. Dreamer, Seabiscuit).

Horses who have died in movies and children’s books: Phar Lap, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, My Pal Trigger, The Red Pony, etc.

These days, nearly every film involving a dog, fish, deer or lion results in the inevitable demise of a main character.

Isn’t childhood these days so fleeting that studios must still carry an agenda of “teaching important moral lessons” wrapped under the guise of death and sadness?

Ever since Bambi‘s mother was killed by a hunter, innocence has been a target on the chopping block of studio executives. In one film whose title escapes me, a young boy has to go shoot his ailing pet dog as a way to show that he is finally “becoming a man.” Update: the movie is Old Yeller, a childhood trauma favourite.

I am so sick and tired of the suggestion that kids will somehow learn certain important lessons from the heartache of losing a pet, whether their own or the brief attachment they make when they watch a beloved creature in a movie. There is enough trauma and sadness in this world without adults making it a point to provoke grief in the fragile psyches of young children.

If it isn’t Simba’s father, the great Mufasa in The Lion King, then it has to be Nemo’s mother and 498 brothers and sisters, eaten in the first 10 minutes. Littlefoot’s mother is killed in The Land Before Time; the Lion in Narnia sacrifices his life; 3 of the huskies in Snow Dogs are killed; in All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie is run over by a car; and so on, and so forth.

Other such favourite book-movie remakes include The Yearling, where Bambi and Bambi’s mother get killed off. Adding to this is the old Hollywood twist of having the young protagonist actually pick up a rifle and shoot their beloved and domesticated pet deer in the head.

In Where the Red Fern Grows, not one but two dogs bite the dust – a pair of loyal, beloved hounds who save their master’s life end up being killed off as some sort of symbolic demonstration of love and sacrifice. WTF??

Then there is Never Cry Wolf, Julie of the Wolves, and White Fang, in which all the wolf-dogs kick the bucket by the end. (Remember Snow Dogs which I mentioned earlier – which outdoes all its predecesors by killing 3 dogs at the end). So here is a general rule of thumb for you: don’t watch movies (or read books) involving huskies and the arctic. Not a good idea.

They all die at the end.

More random animal murders take place in film renditions of crappy books such as J.T. and Sounder, where the stories are just as miserable and full of torment and suffering as the ending of the poor dog himself.

Don’t even get me started with the whole let’s-kill-the-villains theme in kids’ movies: in Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the villain is always killed at the end. I think we can beat the villain or set up a situation without always killing someone.

Whatever happened to portraying happiness? Or is that too boring for film studios? I’ll take Benji any day over Lassie, where a brave little dog is shown beaten to death, and Lassie is whipped by a bad owner.

To all readers, I ask you to help me out here. Please add your comments and name any other films you know of where the animals are killed by the end: I want to compile a list of movies I would never show a child.

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Posted in animals, children, commentary, culture, death, family, innocence, movie, movie review, parents, rant, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

C for Courage, F for Freedom, R for Resistance – Sophie Scholl and V for Vendetta: a contrast of ideologies

Posted by E on August 7, 2007

sophie-scholl.jpgsophiescholl-film.jpg 

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure! Every individual human being has a claim to a useful and just state, which secures freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole.
– from leaflets distributed by the White Rose

When I first saw the movie V for Vendetta a couple of years back, there was a striking familiarity about it, one that I just couldn’t, try as I might, put my finger on. A sensation of déjà vu, like a fleeting fragrance, echoed through my memory.
“I know this story”, I said to myself. “I have heard these words before.”
Months went by and that nagging itch just didn’t go away. I felt Vendetta tapped into a collective unconsciousness for a lot of people, myself included.

I spent my teenage years involved with revolutionary movements; I knew people who spent their lives as part of an underground of political activity. So the explosive theories of V were not exactly foreign to me; the concept of overthrowing a corrupt system was just a refrain of earlier days. Still, there was something else there.

Months later, I finally saw a film I had put off seeing for various personal reasons. The German movie Sophie Scholl – the Final Days is about the journey of two siblings involved with the covert WW2 resistance group The White Rose. The ending of that journey is betrayed by the title, and the film is a realistic glimpse (based on newly-discovered interrogation and arrest records) of only the final six days of their lives.

Sophie and her brother Hans were bright university students who came from a privileged liberal family. Prior to their political activity, Hans was a member of the Nazi party while Sophie had an active membership in the Hitler Youth. Although not covered in the film, Sophie’s disillusionment with the BDM (the girls’ wing of the HY) stemmed from her observation of others’ treatment of a Jewish friend.

Along with a number of other students from the Munich University (curiously, not much of the group’s involvement is depicted in the film), they founded The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group that lasted from June 1942 to February 1943.

This German film, the third adaptation of the story (with another Hollywood adaptation featuring Christina Ricci as Sophie coming out soon) is the most accurate rendition to date of the Scholls’ final days.
Sauce Magazine describes the story: “On Feb. 18, 1943, the siblings go to the Munich campus to stack propaganda flyers while all the other students are in class. But a janitor spies the pair, and they are quickly arrested for distributing seditionist literature. Seemingly unruffled, the clever Scholl spins such a convincing web of lies that her interrogators are prepared to let her go. But then a damning bit of evidence is discovered, and she has no recourse but to admit guilt.

What follows over the next few days is a stark and powerful interrogation-turned-debate between Scholl and her captor, Gestapo officer Robert Mohr (Alexander Held). The outcome, of course, is inevitable. But Scholl remains stalwart, refusing to give up the others in the resistance. Even Mohr respects her, and he wrestles with the convictions of her morality. He offers her a way out, pleading with her to refute her words, but she refuses and is handed over to a sham court to await her death sentence and execution.”

Noy Thrupkaew of American Prospect describes the lead character: “Julia Jentsch makes an indelible Sophie – girlish face set in nearly supernatural resolve. There are faint quavers, perhaps one cry of anguish, tears silver her lower lashes, but that is all. Sophie lies with unbelievable skill, her brain clacking away as her face betrays nothing. Finally confronted with her brother’s confession, she gives up the game, but with a fierce pride that is just as disconcerting as her cool lies.

That so much of the film centers on Sophie’s interrogation is at once thrilling and vexing – under such attack, why should Sophie reveal herself to her interrogator or to us? Sophie’s dignity falls around her like a mantle, and we are left to admire her steely composure, just as we strain to see past it. She obscures herself with lies at first, and then after her confession, engages in an ideological battle with Mohr, increasingly unnerved by her unshaken conviction. Here, the film loses some of its pitched momentum — the two seem less like three-dimensional characters than representatives in a clash of civilizations: liberal intellectual idealist versus impoverished, embittered working-class foot soldier.”

As I watched Sophie Scholl-the Final Days, I was suddenly flooded with the realization of what had bugged me all that time about V for Vendetta: as a child I had read about the White Rose and that underground group of students, and there were clear parallels between reality and fiction.

In fact, one can hardly abstain from comparing the two films. Both coming out at the same time, one being about V, a larger-than-life masked super-hero freedom-fighter who uses every means necessary to bring about social change, and assists a young woman named Evie to break from the matrix; the other about an indescript, yet real young girl with enough integrity to listen to nothing but her conscience and convictions.

V for Vendetta shows us a world of abject totalitarianism. In such a world, when enough people disappear, those who remain will come to believe that the state’s masters are truly all-powerful, capable of inflicting swift and harsh punishment if they step out of line for even an instant. Of course, many will also bow to the state because they believe that the state can protect them from all the bad things in the world. In either case, mass obedience rests not on the state’s day-to-day acts of oppression but the belief that the state has unlimited power to protect and punish.

Anything that undermines the people’s belief in the state’s omnipresence weakens the people’s acceptance of authoritarianism, and thus anything which causes the people to look at the state with less than awe must be suppressed. V for Vendetta makes this point by showing how the state regards humor at its expense as almost equally as great a threat to its’ rule as V’s attacks.

But where the summer blockbuster V for Vendetta chooses to cop out and rely on an explosive, muddled ending, the ending of Sophie Scholl can be described as steely, horrific, and visceral to the core.

There have been other reviews that compare these two films and their angles, but to me it always comes back to what kind of activism you find conscientious – non-violent resistance vs. terrorism in the name of freedom.

I will not stand here and argue that I oppose the latter without exceptions, since the label “terrorist” is often accorded to anyone who rebels against the status quo. In Eastern Europe, the revolutionaries who brought down communist dictatorships had to resort to such force and indeed were labeled terrorists. But their action in 1989 was necessary to give birth to the freedom that is now taken for granted. I have seen that freedom in the country of my birth, Romania, and it is undescribably sweet.

But after all the roads I’ve traveled on, the things I’ve seen and the people I’ve spoken to, I must confess that it isn’t a bold revolutionary act that makes an impression on me – but the quiet inner resolution that makes one individual refuse to back down.

Whether the lone Chinese man in front of the oncoming tank in Tiananmen square, the Buddhist nun arrested in Tibet, or a young girl like Sophie Scholl who distributes a secret pamphlet – the revolution is in the expression of silent dissent and integrity. The revolution lives – not in a grenade, but in the written word.

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