Sophie’s Choice is director Alan J. Pakula’s famous movie based on the 1979 best-seller novel by William Styron, that won the National Book Award in 1980.

It’s the tragical story of three young people living in New York in 1947, two years after the Second World War. Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a wannabe novelist, moves to New York's Brooklyn in order to build a career. In an old mansion he meets Sophie (Meryl Streep) and Nathan (Kevin Kline). Sophie is a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, involved in a complex relationship with Nathan, an American Jew obsessed with the Holocaust. The three get befriended, though Stingo soon falls foul with Nathan, while he falls hopelessly in love with Sophie.

In the third flash-back of the movie it becomes clear what exactly Sophie's choice was: when Sophie arrived at Auschwitz, she was ordered to select one of her children who would be sent to the ovens - the remaining kid would be spared. This sequence is especially heartbreaking, as the screaming little girl is carried away to die.

In 1982, Néstor Almendros won the NYFCC Award for Best Cinematography. In the same year Meryl Streep won the LAFCA and the NYFCC award for Best Actress for her performance in this movie. One year later she won an Oscar, a BSFC Award and a Golden Globe, all for Best Actress. In 1984 director Alan J. Pakula won the Robert award for Best Foreign Film.

(for a full list, see

Meryl Streep            Sophie Zawistowska 
Kevin Kline             Nathan 
Peter MacNicol          Stingo 
Rita Karin              Yetta 
Stephen D. Newman       Larry 
Greta Turken            Leslie Lapidus
Josh Mostel             Morris Fink 
Marcell Rosenblatt      Astrid Weinstein
Moishe Rosenfeld        Moishe Rosenblum 
Robin Bartlett          Lillian Grossman 

Sophie's Choice was published by William Styron in 1976 and is probably the best of his half-dozen works. The book tells the story of Stingo, an autobiographical character, and two people he meets after moving to New York City: Nathan, a brilliant and tempermental man and Sophie, a Polish gentile who survived the holocaust.

William Styron discussed his struggles with depression in Darkness made visible, and Sophie's Choice deals with subject matter that goes well beyond depressing to dealing with horror and terror. What is the most extraordinary about this is that for all the fame that the book's eponymys decision has, the book at no point tries to force its story on us. The story, in both its naturalistic prose style and authentic ability of capturing the viewpoint of a young man just out of college, describes how someone just entering adulthood would try to confront the realities of genocide and insanity.

In many ways, sections of this books achieve a surrealistic quality. However, it is not the surrealism of prose experimentation, but the surrealism of actual life. Prose passages detailing the landscape of Brooklyn, trips to the beach and the narrators desperate attempts to get laid contrast with increasingly long, detailed and horrific passages dealing with Sophie's experiences in the Holocaust and Nathan's increasing madness. This is the type of surrealism that I experienced myself going through my late teens and early twenties: the excitement of a first job or a first girlfriend, coupled with the sudden experience that things like that were extremely petty and trivial compared to the pain and horror of the world. Styron, through the narrator, himself acknowledges this in one of the passages of the book that most sticks in my memory: where he talks about the writer George Steiner, who wrote about two seperate streams of time: the stream of time of the camps, where people died constantly, and of the outside world, only miles away, where people went about their business normally. The narrator quotes a letter he wrote at the age of eighteen, dealing with college basketball, and then writes of the fact that 2100 Greek Jews died while he was worried about ball games. He realizes this "terrifying incongruity", but can not explain it.

Whether people will get out of this book what I did, I do not know. However, I think I can say that this book is not William Styron trying to make a political point or worse, use terrible subject matter to make his book appear profound. For me, this is a very natural descritpion of how young people must come face to face with the horror of the world they live in.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.