Film: Sophie’s Choice
Cast includes: Meryl Streep (Out of Africa), Kevin Kline (The Big Chill), Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal)
Director: Name (Presumed Innocent)
Genre: Historic-based Drama/Romance/Mystery (1982) Based on a novel by William Styron
In brief: “In 1947, I began my journey…” That’s when Stingo moves from Virginia to New York to unlock his land-locked spirit and write a novel. He finds an apartment on the second floor of Yetta Zimmerman’s pink house in Brooklyn. The first time he meets his third floor neighbors, Sophie and Nathan, is when he hears a bitter argument in the stairwell. “I need you like a case of anthrax,” Nathan shouts at her. His verbal venom is so abusive, it’s shocking. “Go back to Cracow,” he screams. Later a tearful yet stunningly beautiful Sophie tells Stingo, “That’s not the way he really is.” But Stingo can’t believe anyone can be so cruel. As they talk, Stingo catches a glimpse of the number from Auschwitz tattooed on her arm. When Stingo apologizes for the typing noise late at night, Sophie tells him in broken English that it’s comforting… it reminds her of her father who typed many scholarly papers. Her father was “such a good man, striving to save people who were persecuted… a civilized man in an uncivilized time.”
When Nathan returns he’s amazingly exuberant, and his joy is contagious. Sophie tells Stingo that the three of them will become the best of friends, and she’s right. Sophie loves to tell about how Nathan saved her when she fainted in the library. And after nursing her back to health, they discover each other’s love of literature, among other things. Yet, there’s something dark about Nathan. Sophie worries when he’s out late, and confides in Stingo. Nathan is obsessed with the Nazis. “You don’t know what he might do,” she tells Stingo. Later in an angry rage, Nathan screams, “Do you ever wonder why Sophie was one of the people who lived while millions died?” In fact, Stingo has been trying to learn more about Sophie’s past, but Sophie can’t talk it.
By this time, it’s obvious to us... even if Stingo can’t admit it… that Sophie and Nathan have an inexplicable bond. Stingo doesn’t understand it… but he so wants to. He’s driven to learn the truth about Sophie.
In this amazingly beautiful and well-crafted film, we’re taken deeper and deeper into the horrors of the holocaust as well as the personal horrors of one of its survivors. Stingo becomes our eyes and ears, coming from the perspective of a total innocent. Nothing about Sophie… or Nathan, for that matter… is as it appears. And nothing can undo what has happened. Sophie warns Stingo, “Knowing the truth doesn’t make it easier to understand.”
4 popped kernels
A masterful telling of an important and powerful story.. well worth watching again.