Wednesday, 19 January 2011

One choice. A lifetime of consequences.

Sophie’s Choice

December 8, 1982

Directed by:
Alan J. Pakula

Produced by:
Alan J. Pakula
Keith Barish
William C. Gerrity
Martin Starger

Written by: 
Alan J. Pakula
Based on the novel by William Styron

Meryl Streep
Kevin Kline
Peter MacNicol

Summary: Sophie is a Polish Nazi concentration camp survivor, who is saved and falls in love with unpredictable Biologist Nathan – who is obsessed with the holocaust. They becomes friends with Stingo (the narrator), a young American writer who moves into the apartment below them. As the film progresses, Sophie begins to trust Stingo by opening up to him about the past which haunts her.  The film follows Sophie, Nathan and Stingo’s relationships, as well as the traumatic repercussions of experiencing the horrors of a concentration camp. The film sees the consequences of a choice Sophie was forced to make, to keep one of her children and let the other die.

My Favourite Scene: One of the scenes I found particularly powerful, was at the end when Stingo returns to the house and realises what has happened.  When he walks into the bedroom he sees Sophie and Nathan, two tortured souls, lying in each other’s arms, dead. It is a peaceful end with He then takes the Emily Dickinson book and reads the poem “Ample make this bed” to them. This moment sees Stingo crushed by the death of the two most important people in his life. The hope that Stingo had of him and Sophie having any future together is gone.  In the end, everything that Stingo offered Sophie was not enough, as she could not escape the horrors of her past, and so made the choice of going to Nathan – which she knew would result in her death.

My Favourite Quotes:
Sophie: (In reply Stingo asking ‘you were sent to Auschwitz for stealing ham?’) No, I was sent to Auschwitz because they saw that I was afraid.

Nathan Laudau: Don’t you see, Sophie? We’re dying.

Stingo: I saw the first rays of daylight reflected in the murky river. This was not judgment day. Only morning: excellent and fair.   
My Thoughts:
I was really impressed by Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sophie – which earned her an Oscar. The Polish accent was very good and I felt that she really put everything into Sophie’s story and her feelings. The scene where Sophie was sat by the window recalling her memories and sharing them with Stingo was really moving and I think Streep deeply connected with the role. I don’t think that it is necessary to explain how powerful her performance was in the ‘choice’ scene. This was the unthinkable choice that every person would find impossible: choosing which of her children should live, and which should die. This dreadful moment in Sophie’s past led to her issues about having a family with Stingo. She was a very complicated and delicate character. The film sees pieces of her past unfolding as she shares them with Stingo.

There was an interesting theme of trust and lies in ‘Sophie’s Choice’. Sophie trusting Stingo with her secrets, Nathan’s paranoia meaning he does not trust Stingo and also Sophie’s trust for Nathan – she had no idea who he really was. If trust is important in the film, so is lying. Firstly, Sophie lies about her father being an anti-Semite. This was a lie that led to the pivotal moment in the film when Stingo confronts Sophie and she reveals the truth about her time at the Nazi concentration camp. At the end of the scene she falls into his arms crying. The audience is given the possibility, since the film is seen those Stingo’s eyes, that he will save her and they will be together. However, she cannot bring herself to leave Nathan – who I think she felt completed her in some way and she was not strong enough without him.

Another lie was Nathan’s life as a biologist. There is a scene where Sophie and Nathan were sitting by the river and Nathan ran up to them excitedly saying that he and his team were close to a breakthrough at work. At this point I realised something was not quite right with Nathan. One moment, he was extremely happy and dressing up in ridiculous outfits, the next he was shouting at Sophie saying “I need you like death!” This was sad because Sophie trusted him and he had led a completely different life than she had thought.

Sophie’s Choice is beyond through-provoking. The audience can feel Sophie’s pain in the scenes where she is talking about her past. After everything that had happened, I was hoping for some happiness for her and, on reflection, I think her death portrayed that she was finally at peace with herself and her memories. ‘Sophie’s Choice’ is incredibly moving and powerful, but I will not be watching it again for a while – it was far too emotionally draining!

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