Sophie's Choice (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alan J. Pakula|
|Produced by||Alan J. Pakula
|Written by||Alan J. Pakula|
|Based on||Sophie's Choice by William Styron|
|Narrated by||Josef Sommer|
|Music by||Marvin Hamlisch|
|Editing by||Evan Lottman|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||150 minutes|
Sophie's Choice is a 1982 existentialist American drama film that tells the story of a Polish immigrant, Sophie, and her tempestuous lover who share a boarding house with a young writer in Brooklyn. The film stars Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Peter MacNicol. Alan J. Pakula directed the movie and wrote the script from a novel by William Styron, also called Sophie's Choice.
Meryl Streep's performance was very favorably received, and it won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Alan J. Pakula).
In 1947, the movie's narrator, Stingo (Peter MacNicol), relocates to Brooklyn in order to write a novel and is befriended by Sophie Zawistowski (Meryl Streep), a Polish immigrant, and her emotionally unstable lover, Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline).
Nathan is constantly jealous, and when he is in one of his violent mood swings he convinces himself that Sophie is unfaithful to him and abuses and harasses her. There is a flashback showing Nathan rescuing Sophie from near death from anemia shortly after her immigration to the U.S.
Sophie (a Polish Catholic) eventually reveals that her father was a Nazi sympathizer. Sophie had a lover, Józef (Neddim Prohic), who lived with his half-sister, Wanda (Katharina Thalbach), a leader in the Resistance. Wanda tried to convince Sophie to translate some stolen Gestapo documents, but Sophie declined, fearing she might endanger her children. Two weeks later Józef was murdered by the Gestapo, and Sophie was arrested and sent to Auschwitz with her children.
Nathan tells Sophie and Stingo that the research he is doing at a pharmaceutical company is so groundbreaking that he will win the Nobel Prize.
At a meeting with Nathan's physician brother, Stingo learns that Nathan is mentally ill (paranoid schizophrenic) and that all of the schools that Nathan had attended were "expensive funny farms." (He has a job in the library of a pharmaceutical firm, which his brother got for him, and only occasionally assists with research.)
After Nathan discharges a firearm over the telephone in a violent rage, Sophie and Stingo flee to a hotel. She reveals to him the tragic choice she was forced to make at Auschwitz. Upon arrival, she was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose her son, Jan (Adrian Kaltika), to be sent to the children's camp, and her daughter, Eva (Jennifer Lawn), to be sent to her death in Crematorium Two.
Sophie and Stingo make love, but while Stingo is sleeping, Sophie, tormented by her memory, returns to Nathan. Sophie and Nathan commit suicide by taking cyanide. Stingo recites the poem "Ample Make This Bed" by Emily Dickinson—the American poet Sophie was fond of reading.
Stingo moves away from Brooklyn to a small farm his father recently inherited in southern Virginia to finish writing his novel.
- Meryl Streep as Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowska
- Kevin Kline as Nathan Landau
- Peter MacNicol as Stingo
- Rita Karin as Yetta Zimmerman
- Stephen D. Newman as Larry Landau
- Josh Mostel as Morris Fink
- Marcell Rosenblatt as Astrid Weinstein
- Moishe Rosenfeld as Moishe Rosenblum
- Robin Bartlett as Lillian Grossman
- Eugene Lipinski as Polish professor
- John Rothman as Librarian
- Neddim Prohic as Jòzef
- Katharina Thalbach as Wanda
- Jennifer Lawn as Eva Zawistowski
- Adrian Kalitka as Jan Zawistowski
- Joseph Leon as Dr. Blackstock
- David Wohl as English teacher
- Vida Jerman as female SS guard
- Josef Sommer as the Narrator (Stingo as an adult)
William Styron wrote the novel with Ursula Andress in mind for the part of Sophie, but Meryl Streep was very determined to get the role. After she obtained a bootlegged copy of the script, she went after Alan J. Pakula and threw herself on the ground, begging him to give her the part. Pakula’s first choice was Liv Ullmann for her ability to project the foreignness that would add to her appeal in the eyes of an impressionable, romantic Southerner.
Streep filmed the "choice" scene in one take. Being a mother herself, she found shooting the scene extremely painful and emotionally draining and refused to do it again. Streep's characterization was voted the third greatest movie performance of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Sophie's Choice won the Academy Award for Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and was nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Alan J. Pakula). The film was also ranked #1 in the Roger Ebert's Top Ten List for 1982 and was listed on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).
Awards and nominations
- Best Actress – Meryl Streep (won)
- Best Cinematography – Nestor Almendros (nominated)
- Best Costume Design – Albert Wolsky (nominated)
- Best Original Score – Marvin Hamlisch (nominated)
- Best Screenplay: Adapted – Pakula (nominated)
- Best Actress – Streep (nominated)
- Most Outstanding Newcomer to Film – Kevin Kline (nominated)
- Best Actress: Drama – Streep (won)
- Best Film: Drama (nominated)
- New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture: Male – Kline (nominated)
- Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium – Pakula (nominated)
- Box Office Information for Sophie's Choice. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Box Office Information for Sophie's Choice. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 1, 2013
- Skow, John (1981-09-07). "What Makes Meryl Magic". Time. Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- Trivia for Sophie's Choice. IMDb. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Premiere Magazine: The 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. AMC's FilmSite. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Sophie's Choice at the Internet Movie Database
- Sophie's Choice at AllRovi
- Sophie's Choice at Box Office Mojo
- Sophie's Choice at Rotten Tomatoes