Review for Sophie's Choice
Sophie's Choice tells the harrowing story of a Holocaust survivor who is living with one of the most horrendous 'choices' that has ever been made. Living in America with her volatile and (it will be revealed why later in the film) eccentric lover Nathan she befriends a writer called Stingo who is looking to write his first novel. Forming a friendship with Sophie, she finds the courage to reveal some of the dark moments of her past which ultimately leads to the downfall of herself and her relationship with Nathan due to jealousy and conflict of the past on the present.
This film is stunning. I simply cannot reveal how emotionally heart-wrenching it is to watch this film. At times, I felt that if it had been made today it would have been filled with extreme violence and even more over the top hysterics, but in 1982 this was and still is pitched perfectly. The pacing, despite being over two hours is perfect and at times it feels like it could have gone on longer, but that wouldn't have been an issue.
One of the main reasons for this is simple: Meryl Streep. It seems obvious to say that she steals every scene that she is in, but she does. This is the film that most people talk about when they talk about how great Streep is as an actress. The performance won her the Best Actress Oscar amongst other awards and it is hard to argue that anyone would have come close to her in the running.
Her performance as Sophie throughout the film is astounding. Whether it is the joyful moments in the present or the harrowing moments in the concentration camps she commands that you listen to every word she says and every move that she makes. It is a masterful performance and one that all aspiring actors should study. (The performances was voted the Number 1 Female Performance by Premiere magazine and only losing out to Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront and Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia for best of all time!?)
Alongside her is a wonderful cast including Kevin Kline as Nathan. I had only ever really seen Kline in comedic roles and this one makes me wonder why he didn't do more dramatic things. Though saying that it was his wonderful performance in A Fish Called Wanda that won him his Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The performance of Peter MacNicol as Stingo is perfectly understated and I found watching him a joy.
The film itself is simply gorgeous with a wonderful cinematography by Nestor Amendros and Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Both were nominated for Oscars, but oddly Director/Screenwriter Alan J. Pakula was only nominated for Best Writing (Adapted) and even more shocking was that the film was not given a Best Picture Nomination? This was the year that Gandhi won.
My only warning in regards to this film is that it is not a light film by any stretch of the imagination. Though it contains very little violence or nudity or anything that would get the film anything more than a PG or a 12 rating, the subject is very intense. The 'choice' scene is possibly one of the most harrowing moments in film history and I defy anyone who watches it to not break down in tears at the agony that this would have been.
The Bluray is a gorgeous print of this film with amazing sound. The extras are a little on the light side, but what they do give is ample enough to warrant owning this. Commentary by Pakula is fine with the obviously a film that he enjoyed working on and is rightfully proud of. I do think he should have been paired with someone and maybe if Kline or Streep even had been involved it would have been more interesting. It is still great to hear how he came to make the film and some of the stories are fascinating.
A Tribute to Pakula is a little odd when you consider that apart from this film To Kill a Mockingbird, All The President's Men and maybe Klute he didn't produce a whole lot to talk about. Instead of a number of interviews of people praising his work this is simply a three minute slideshow timeline of everything he made. This would be nice except it doesn't give you any information about what his role was such as the fact he only Produced To Kill a Mockingbird or any other information like nominations or awards of which there are many. An odd extra. Finally there is a Trailer which like this review doesn't reveal what the 'choice' was. I am choosing not to talk about it so that if you have not seen it you will experience it with fresh eyes.
Sophie's Choice is simply a masterpiece of every point. From the music, to the directing to the obvious centrepiece of Streep herself. This is a film that will always be deemed a classic. It is a film that you should experience, but be warned, this is not a happy film, but it does make you appreciate life and that is exactly what a great film should do.