By Julie Griffin
“Suffer the little children to come unto me.” ~ Matthew 19:14
A biologist who once tenderly cradled her head and brought her to his brother for medical care after her collapse from pure prisoner of war fatigue, he prepares calves liver and leeks and among other things filled with iron nurses Sophie Zawistowski (Meryl Streep) back to health after that war. A deep and lovely relational development between the two begins. The number on the wrist of Sophie, a mark of the imprisonment of the lambs by those who love the violence of war soon opens a causeway for an author whose father swears his move to New York to begin the great American novel a relocation to Sodom. But another kind of death ever in the midst, breaks the heart more for a kind compassion that teaches a writer.
Sophie swears he will move mountains. But he assures her after his date that night that he is pretty likely to spend his life alone. His book, he tells her at the height of the real year of our Lord, 1947 is about a twelve-year old boy. She remembers during one of her times of conversation where the three had a first tea time together. But once as a little girl, she lay in bed upstairs and heard her scholarly father type on his typewriter and thought of what a wonderful life and what good parents she had. The scene where Nathan tears his sheet of paper out of the typewriter doubles for the identifier as the two kinds of written expression and each oppose the another. A life passionate boyfriend conducts one symphony before a trio of depression era glass windows. A tender comaderie before the three windows seem symbolic of the three lifted glasses of the companions, a toast to fate, on the single cat cradle bridge.
“Bravo. On this bridge, where so many great American writers have stood and reached out for words to give America voice.” He welcomes that Pantheon of the gods, whose words are all we know for immortality ~ Nathan was utterly, fatally glamorous, according to Stengo (Peter MacNicol) until later that night as her abusive and mad boyfriend, who she primed for by her own father, names the Stengo novel an adolescent problem and a southern comic book. And yet, once a fiery episode parts Sophie and this manic first lover, Nathan, Sophie takes off. She apologizes the next morning, and Stengo prepares to depart from Brooklyn to do as he says, search out a more better place to write. Stengo finds out that the professor father of Sophie actually despised and wrote pamplets against Jews. She chooses this moment to reveal this truth behind the story to him.
Her truth she confesses may not make the present easier or herself today easier to understand. For Sophie had created a father who she as a child wanted, and yet grown by the time she typed documents for him who demanded her human perfection. From a father who wrongfully despises her for his opinion of her lack of intelligence, to the desire of Stengo to marry Sophie once he rescues her from Nathan on the day of the height of a true schitzophrenic manifestation ~ Sophie finally again shares the story behind the story she refused to share with anybody with the author. But this time, she provides Stengo with the sad and stunning detail which causes him to proclaim, “Sophie, what have we done to you?” Her story of her life after her arrest, where she although her life saved due to her secretarial skills and her knowledge of more than a few languages, she confesses the first time to him that the crumpled document with the many typos, the speech of her father for the college against the Jewish people saves her life.
The examination of the film regarding the life of Sophie and her seeming recovery after a great war and her life as a servant for pone Natzi family after her sentencing to Auschwitch, brings to mind the very grief of the soul. Sophie represents for the story here, the concentration camp prisoner as an individual person with a heart and a distinct personality and life. While most of history wants to speak of the Jewish holocaust of the Natzi world war as a genocide by terms of numbers, the story of Sophie assures us that each person who suffered here bore an individual history complete with marital status, children, of which Sophie once had two, and even vocation. Sophie, as a grown married woman worked for her linguistics professor father. She later fell into a relationship with the man who called upon his doctor brother to give her new life after her managed escape to America.
A flight from memory and grief, a frantic attempt to push back death, Sophie although she embraces Stengo, returns to Nathan and leaves the author who desired her hand in marriage ~ only to meet with the same reality she once faced as a prisoner of war, a decision which left her with a depth of emotional pain. A film filled with a lot of modernist drama also faces a share of tragedy. The moving mysteries behind the sad prior circumstances of Sophie, clearly display how raw and unresolved human trauma may lead a person to the deeper realms of making bad decisions which seem right ~ as such kinds of tributaries seem to grow toward what looks like a promised land. The poem of Emily Dickinson and her book which appeared at a crucial part of the film, made an explanation of the decision put before Sophie, after a soldier uses the moment as a cruel and swift move to mock the goodness of a Christ profilic. The death that later came to Sophie, a war of passion defined by a force of the split and choiceless patriotism of the heart also clarified the choice. At a time in which the director brings us a Hemingway, the mystery behind the true identity of Sophie ~ also she, her character in the film always more than a Christian, and a Polish woman of precious substance, only managed as most of life, to save the memories of the dream. “This was not judgement day. Only morning, excellent and fair.”
The opera and the book, although highly literary do not seem to hold much of a candle to the 1982 film. And Sophie almost seems ushered into the unhealthy relationship with the mentally mad Nathan due to the festive nature of her ethnic joy. Since he gives her some laughter during his high cycle of the madness, she fails to reaelize the cycle of abuse which translates as romance, abuse and repentance repeatedly. The film, directed by Alan J. Paluka has three main stars ~ Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol.