I chose Sophie’s Choice only for one reason. Meryl Steep. I love that woman. She is an amazing actress. I remember the first movie of hers which I saw, The River Wild, and was so thoroughly amazed by the woman on screen. She has an amazing screen presence. After that I don’t miss a chance to see her movies. And I am glad I saw this one too.
Sophie’s Choice is a drama movie about this woman, Sophie, who is living along with her lover, Nathan, in Brooklyn. A young writer, Stingo, comes to the same place and stays at the room below. His first encounter with Sophie is when he sees her being harassed by her lover. Then slowly he becomes a very good friend of both Sophie & Nathan’s. Stingo sees that Sophie is frequently harassed by Nathan, who believes that she is cheating on him. But other times he is the perfect lover, an amazing friend and an enviable human being because of his knowledge of various subjects and the way he goes to extremes for Sophie and Nathan. Being the very young man in a impressionable age, Stingo is little awestruck. Slowly as their friendship progresses, he comes to know the background of Sophie, who is a Polish and how she was in the camp and her experiences. How she failed in her choices in her life and her guilt and suffering because of that. How Nathan saved her from her death and how she wanted to live for him. Stingo starts to fall for Sophie and is there for her when Nathan has his mood swings. He realizes that nothing is right in Sophie and Nathan’s world, but he wants to be there for them. One day both of them go missing and when he goes in search of Sophie, he comes to know that Sophie’s father was anti semitic , not quite the version Sophie had told him. When she returns he confronts her. She tells part of her history and then Nathan comes back and suddenly things are looking bright. One day Nathan proposes to Sophie and they get engaged. In the mean time Stingo also comes to know about the problem that Nathan has. His brother confronts him about his issues of being a paranoid schizophrenic and seeks Stingo’s help to keep tabs on him. But the next day, there is a fight and Nathan threatens to kill both Sophie and Stingo suspecting them to have an affair behind his back. That is when Sophie and Stingo escape to a hotel. Since Stingo was planning on moving back to his hometown, to his farm, he asks Sophie to marry him and come back and settle down with him. She tells her the final piece of the her missing past, which she has not revealed to anyone, about how she had to make a choice between her two children and tells him that she would not be able to marry him. They make love but then the next day she says goodbye to Stingo in a letter and goes back to Nathan. When Stingo comes back, he sees that they both have committed suicide using cyanide.
The story starts with Stingo explaining his reason to come to Brooklyn, and it continues in his first person account. The flashback of Sophie are shown in black and white to bring out the grey mood of those troubling times in her life. Its a slightly lengthier movie, only because it goes a little slow. The story was adapted from a book of the same name. I am sure I would have been very depressed if I had read it. But seeing it made me sad, but also made me appreciate this movie as a whole. The screenplay, the dialogues. There is this one particular scene which has the following dialogue which stuck with me.
Sophie, I want to understand…
I’d love to know the truth.
The truth? It does not make it easier to understand. And maybe you think that find out the truth about me…and you’ll understand me and then you’d forgive me for all those…For all my lies.
I promise I’ll never leave you.
You must never promise that. No one… no one should ever promise that! The truth? I don’t even know what is the truth. After all these lies I’ve told…
Does truth always makes things easier to understand? No. Logically yes, but practically it doesn’t, especially when we add the dynamics of human mind to it. Sometimes truth confuses a lot too.
No wonder Meryl Streep won the Academy Awards for this movie. She has done a fabulous performance, be it the captured victim in Auschwitz (see how bony she looks in those scenes), or how she bubbles with happiness with Nathan and her heart wrenching sorrow when she has to choose between her children. She is the best (I know I am biased..but still..). Kevin Kline as Nathan and Peter MacNicol as Stingo are also very good. There are not too many characters in this movie. The main story revolves around these three. And Meryl Streep steals the show. The music at some places is very ..well it tends to bring tears to your eyes. Its difficult to handle one depressive human being and here in this story, two of them try to make a life and finally it ends up sad for them as well as for this one person who comes very close to understanding them.
This is one of the many films based on the holocaust tragedy. The other moving drama I remember was ‘The Schindler’s List’. If that was intense in one way, this is intense in another, because it involves a woman’s story. A must watch movie just for Meryl Streep.