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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Sophie's Choice


Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNico
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 August 2014

Arriving in New York, the young Stingo is looking to make his mark as a writer. He moves into an apartment building where his neighbours are Sophie, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, and Nathan, an emotionally unbalanced Jewish biologist. Stingo is drawn to them and bears witness to both their passions; good and ill...

Sophie’s Choice (1982. 2 hrs, 30 min, 52 sec) is a drama written and directed by Alan J. Pakula, who adapted it from the original novel by William Styron, and concentrates on the relationship between three people who all live in the same boarding house.

The film starred Meryl Streep, in the title role which gained her an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1983, which only backs up Kate Winslet’s rational for playing a nun in Nazi Germany in Extras. The film went on to garner fourteen awards and was nominated for a further twelve.

The film opens with Stringo arriving at the boarding house on a bright sunny day. As the film progresses, and we move closer to discovering the secret that Sophie can barely live with, the look of the film mirrors the gathering darkness in the narrative.

Sophie and Nathan are introduced to Stringo by having a fight on the stairs. Slowly the three come together. Stringo is fascinated and drawn to the couple’s passions, but it’s obvious that things with Sophie and Nathan are not good as their passions both pull them together and tear them apart.

Sophie is a Polish catholic survivor of the concentration camps, who following her liberation moves to America, but even here she has no real desire to live. It is only when she faints in a library, which sparks her meeting with Nathan, that she finds something and someone to live for.

As an outsider, the audience quickly realises that there is something wrong with Nathan as his moods oscillate between over wrought bonhomie, to more violent passions.

The film plays on two levels. In the present we witness the unfolding friendship between the characters, including Stringo’s loss of innocence. But all these events are just the culmination of what had happened in the past. In the flashback sequences, which are presented in a more sepia tone compared to the brightness of their present, we follow Sophie’s journey through the war and the choice she was forced to make.

Both in its claustrophobic concentration on the three main protagonists and the film's continual dip into slightly pompous oration, makes the piece feel less like a product of the cinematic arts, than it does a filmed stage play. We rarely get away from the three main characters and much of the film is seen from Stingo’s point of view, which only switches to Sophie’s during the flashbacks.

The picture looks to have been restored and apart from a little grain, which would have been on the original print, the picture is free from any faults. The picture is a little soft, but this was a deliberate choice of the cinematographer, however the colours remain mostly strong. There is only a single audio track, LPCM 2.0, but it is nice and clear. The film also contains subtitles during the German and Polish sequences.

There’s is only a couple of extras on the disc. The tribute to Alan J. Pakula (HD. 3 min, 20 sec) consists of a scrolling timeline of the films he made, with both their title and an image, but little else. There is the original theatrical trailer (SD. 2 min, 50 sec). Pakula does provide a full length informative commentary for the film.

This is not an easy film to watch and if you are unaware of what Sophie was forced to choose between, the effect is little short of harrowing. It succeeds in bringing the horrors of the concentration camps back down to the individually personal and shows that some scars never heal.


Charles Packer

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