Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol

We are getting closer to Oscar night, and today I want to focus on a film that won Meryl Streep her first Oscar for Best Actress (she had previously won for Kramer v Kramer in the Best Supporting Actress category). 

The film begins with Stingo arriving at Brooklyn where he takes an apartment and plans to focus on his writing. On his first night, he witnesses a couple fighting in the stairs because he thought he was cheating on her. The couple was Nathan and Sophie, and the next day they wanted to say they were sorry about what happened the night before to Stingo and invite him for breakfast and to spend the day with them. From there on, they become good friends. We see the development in his relationship with Nathan and Sophie as he starts to know them deeper. Nathan is paranoid about Sophie, he thinks she is constantly cheating on him. And in those jealous moments, he becomes very violent and Stingo starts to interfere in defending Sophie, who he is secretly falling in love with him. Stingo trying to find Sophie discovers that she lied to him about her past, he finds that her father was really a Nazi instead of a defender of Jews like she said. She then tells Stingo the truth about her father, as she remembers how she was typing a speech his father recorded, she heard him say that the solution for the Jewish problem was extermination. As she is then rejected by her father and husband, she explains she then began a relationship with a guy who was the brother of the leader of the resistance against the Nazi’s. As she keeps telling Stingo about her past, we are taken to the awful time of the Holocaust. As she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where she is separated from her children and starts to work for a German officer. The story then just lets us go deep into why Sophie lives with such regret and sorrow. The film has two shocking revelations, one is about Nathan and the other is the truth about Sophie’s choice. We think the title refers to her having to choose between Stingo and Nathan, but by the end, the real choice is revealed. It is one strong situation and thought the movie is fiction, one can think a woman could have faced the awfulness of the choice she had to make. To be honest, I saw bits and pieces from the film and was so shocked by what I saw but I never saw the film in its entirety until last night when I decided to talk about this film, and by the end of the film, I was simply moved to tears. It is a human story of love, friendship and the unfairness of life. The ending of the film is a picture of Sophie and you can see in her eyes all the pain she hid inside. 

The main reason I want to talk about this film is simply the fact that this is an amazing performance from Meryl Streep. She is able to transmit from the screen the character’s pain and deep sadness and regret for the things that happened in her life. In my opinion the scene where her choice is revealed, is one of the most heart-breaking scenes I have seen in a movie and so perfectly acted by Streep. It is clear that she is one of the greatest actresses ever and if you like her work, this film is a must see. 

The film also features a great performance from Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol. If you have not seen it, even if you know about the choice, because I knew about it before watching the film, it touched me more now more than ever because I knew more of the character and what she endured. Really it is a touching film and one of the greatest acting performances in cinema by Meryl Streep.

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