Mrs. Soffel

1984

Drama / Romance

136
IMDb Rating 6.1 10 2,736

Synopsis


Downloaded times
August 4, 2020

Cast

Diane Keaton as Linda
Heather Graham as Sharonna
Mel Gibson as Skinner
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
1 GB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
110 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.86 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
110 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Rigor 9 / 10 / 10

One of the best American films of the 1980's

This is one of the best American films of the 1980's. It is based on the true story of the wife of the Allegheny County Jail warden, Kate Soffel (Diane Keaton) who falls in love with a sexually alluring working class inmate, Ed Biddle (Mel Gibosn) in turn of the century Pittsburgh and plots to help him and his brother, Jack (Matthew Modine) escape. Director Gillian Armstrong and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner brilliantly decided to deal with the story in an elliptical and indirect way. We aren't telegraphed anything. We don't know if the Biddle's are innocent. We don't really understand why Kate falls in love with Ed. We aren't directly told why Kate is so disappointed in her life. The filmmakers takes this personal story and turns it into a progressive feminist mood poem. It is extraordinary to see a post 1970's American film this complex and this progressive. Diane Keaton gives a remarkably complex and nuanced performance. The film is almost unimaginable with her in the leading role. Early in the film she communicates the torment and longing of Kate in a way that warrants comparisons with the greatest acting of the silent cinema. We see the depression and desperation in Kate's face in a way that rivals Maria Falconetti in Dryer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and Lilian Gish in Victor Sjöström's THE WIND and D.W. Griffith's BROKEN BLOSSOM'S. One of the remarkably subversive aspects of the film is its relationship to Kate's Christianity (which becomes particularly pointed watched in the contemporary context and thinking about Mel Gibson's PASSION OF THE Christ fundamentalism). She is a bit scary creeping about the prison trying to sell doomed men on a faith that will set them free. The suggestion is that it is this same faith, or more precisely the way Christianity is used as a structuring device of patriarchy, that has trapped Kate into her own life sentence. When she becomes aroused by Ed everything shifts, she looks different, some kind of remarkable radiance shines forth from Keaton's face. Her bible lessons become a pretext for sexual release. She literally makes love to Ed through the bars with his brother nearby, which adds a remarkable charge of voyeurism to the proceedings. Mel Gibson has never been photographed more sensually then in this film. There is a scene late in the film, in which, he is lying in bed with the sunlight playing on his face that in which his beauty is almost angelic. He's photographed and contextualized the way male directors have often shot young classically beautiful women (think of Julie Christie in David Lean's Dr. ZHIVAGO, Joseph Losey's THE GO BETWEEN, or Donald Cammell's DEMONSEED or Faye Dunaway in Roman Polanski's CHINATOWN or Sydney Pollock's 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR). Armstong also allows Gibson's sense of humor to peek out to suggest layers to this character. We never totally trust Ed, yet we root for him or at least root for Kate's vision of him. The cinematography by Russell Boyd is exceptionally original and the production design emphasizes the grimy oppressive nature of an industrial town. this was actually a critique of the film at the time of its release. It was too dark, mainstream reviewers said. Well actually its historically accurate. Pittsburgh was so soot filled and grimy that the street lights had to stay on all day long! This is the great environmental tragedy of the industrial revolution. Armstrong uses this look for strong dramatic effect and creates a kind of mood poem here that reminds me of the best work of Antonioni and of Werner Herzog remarkable NOSFERATU. Like in that great film we can never quiet situate ourselves, the oppressive dim look of the film suggests we might be in a kind of waking nightmare. Is the environment part of Kate's psychic and physical affliction? Who could be happy or healthy living in this kind of relentlessly dismal environ? When we finally leave Pittsburgh Boyd and Armstrong present us with some of the most lovingly photographed images of sun and snow in American cinema. The viewer so ready for these brighter images that they alter our the way we connect to the story. That this film was neither a critical nor a commercial success is a tragedy for the contemporary Hollywood cinema. Its failure became one of the many excuses for the overwhelming turn to the banal cookie cutter cinema that Hollywood is known for today. One hopes that cinephiles everywhere will reclaim ambitious films like MRS. SOFFEL as an example

Reviewed by ecjones1951 9 / 10 / 10

Ignored, overlooked, forgotten. And why?

"Mrs. Soffel" is a wonderful movie I have seen many times, but the last viewing was so many years ago I'm watching it right now on TCM. I'm a sucker for movies whose main characters suddenly, inexplicably make a decision which goes against everything they seem to embody, or at least that which the viewer has come to know about them. That Kate Soffel's story is a true one makes it all the more intriguing. In early 20th-century America, the lot of a wife, even that of a well-to-do-man and mother to lovely children, was a lonely, empty, barren existence. In a wealthy household with servants, there was very little meaningful work for the mistress of the house to do every day. Even the layers upon layers of clothes Victorian women wore served no practical purpose except to restrict movement and render their wearers merely decorative. Express your opinions and you got packed off to visit relatives in hopes that maybe the change of scenery would "do you good." There were millions of avenues for creative expression and enterprise that were simply cut off for women. Good minds went to waste. Souls shriveled and died. Kate Soffel (Diane Keaton) was the wife of a prison warden in Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century. She served as something of a missionary to the prisoners, giving them Bibles, holding prayer readings with them and hoping to guide them towards remorse and redemption. She never expects to fall in love with one of the inmates. But fall she does, for the charming Ed Biddle (Mel Gibson), who along with his brother Jack, (Matthew Modine) are in jail on murder charges. Kate is suffocating; the Biddles are desperate. Prone to fits of melancholy and depression, plagued with fears that she is not a good mother and that she has failed her husband -- whom she has come to learn she really doesn't know very well -- Kate, like so many women of her era, is desperate for something to end the tedium, the frustration, the despair. She is a perfect candidate for the dangerous voyage she helps plan and sets out on with the Biddle brothers. "Mrs. Soffel" raises many ethical and moral issues, among them the divergent path Kate takes from her religious teachings, and the Biddle brothers' guilt or innocence. It can be appreciated equally on one or more levels, but it remains a remarkably restrained depiction of emotions and passion that are anything but.

Reviewed by Anonymous_Maxine 9 / 10 / 10

True, it's a true story, but HOW true?

I can't say that I am entirely familiar with the events portrayed in Mrs. Soffel beyond what I read about it in William Coles' novel, `Another Kind of Monday' (except that it was based on a book called `The Biddle Boys and Mrs. Soffel,' by a man named Arthur Forrest, who wrote for small, trashy magazines around the turn of the century, similar to The National Enquirer, magazines which were not very accurate but were packed with information), so I'm not entirely sure how much of the film is a presentation of true events and how much was glamorized for the pulp magazines and glamorized again for the movie. What I do know is that the movie is based on true events, and as a loose adaptation of reality, I think it succeeds pretty well. Mrs. Soffel is the wife of a prison warden who is supervising the sensational case of the Biddle boys, two disarmingly attractive and charming boys who are sentenced to hang for a murder that they claim to have never committed and that the movie never tells us for sure whether they did or not. Since she takes on the task of being the divine counsel of the boys while on Death Row (meaning she reads certain Bible verses to them to keep them calm), she is in close contact with them for an extended period of time and, as is to be expected with a criminal good looking enough to be portrayed by Mel Gibson, she falls in love with one of them. This is the foundation of the whole premise of the movie, but if you're already wondering how a God-loving wife of a prison warden could possibly fall in love with a convicted murderer on Death Row, let me just transcribe here a poem that he wrote for her while in prison: `Just a little violet from across the way Came to cheer a prisoner gimmeattahere in his cell one day. Just a little gimmeattahere flower sent be a loving hand, As a kindly meaning that true hearts gimmeattahere understand. God has smiled gimmeattahere upon it and the sender gimmeattahere fair, And soon that little gimmeattahere token, wrapped in hand so gimmeattahere neat, Rests quietly in the gimmeattahere grave, For which a heart that's true gimmeattahere does beat.' Very sweet, and since it's Mel Gibson, this honest woman doesn't realize or even consider the possibility that he wrote the poem during a sudden abundance of free time in an effort to get close to her and inspire her to help them escape. I have a particular fondness for movies that show people cleverly escaping from prison (and/or bravely enduring it, both of which Paul Newman does in Cool Hand Luke and, even better, Papillon), so I though the idea of sawing through the prison bars and holding them in place with candle wax was brilliant, and the escape was wonderfully pulled off. There are a lot of people who criticize the film for doing little more than making a comment on women's roles at the turn of the century (and as many others who criticize it for almost making such a comment and then not making a real commitment to any specific point of view). I don't really think that something like this should be held against the movie, because it makes you THINK about women's roles at the turn of the century. There is a very distinct value to movies that make just enough of a statement about something in order to get you to think about it and come to your own conclusion. Kate Soffel, the title character, is stuck in a marriage to a man with whom she is not necessarily unhappy as much as she just disagrees with his moral character, convinced that he does not take the content of his profession seriously enough beyond just the fulfillment of his duties. She knows that she is a subordinate to him, which is why, after she protests the hanging of the Biddle Boys (this is just a little nickname that I made up for them…) he suggests that she go away for a while to clear her head, to which she responds, `Go ahead and write to Elsie, or your mother, or wherever you want to send me.' Later, there is a fire in Ed Biddle's cell (the one she falls in love with), and Mrs. Soffel screams for the guards to come, and they drag him out of his cell barely saving his life. As they are dragging him away to the infirmary, Ed chokes to Mrs. Soffel, `You should have let me die,' to which she responds, `I won't.' She's already made up her mind about what she's going to do. The escape itself is wonderfully entertaining, even though clearly contrived. It's more than a little convenient that the prison is absolutely silent (apparently the Biddle Boys are the only prisoners in the entire place), and there is a nice booming sound anytime an approaching guard enters for a periodic walkthrough, slamming a heavy steel door on his way in and on his way out. They might as well have had a bell for the guard to ring to warn them anytime he was coming. He also runs his nightstick across the bars as he passes through one time (interrupting Ed's and Jack's frantic sawing), foreshadowing a discovery of their plan, although such a discovery never happens. But things like this do not take away much from the movie as a whole, because the important scenes work so well. (spoilers) Just before the escape, Ed suggests to Mrs. Soffel that it might be helpful to them if they had guns, and she gets angry, refusing immediately to the request and, as she says, `You think you can sweet-talk me into anything!' forgetting that she is saying this to a prisoner through bars that he and his brother have been able to saw through, using saws that she provided for each of them. Evidently he CAN sweet-talk her into anything! It is also a wonderful scene when the warden is faced with the task of explaining where his wife is at a press conference concerning the escape of the Biddles. Again, back to the fact that the movie doesn't take an immediately discernable standpoint on women's issues, it at the very least does not present flat characters. There is a scene after the escape where the movie introduces the possibility that she doesn't after all, want to go with them. Ed jumps off the train that they have hitched a ride on, and Mrs. Soffel is hesitant, first telling Jack to go first (hinting that she may just stay on the train and be rid of them forever once he jumps), but ultimately she goes with them, accepting her fate as she leaps from the moving train. If the movie does not make a specific comment on women's role at the turn of the century, it most certainly does make a strong comment about the flaws of law enforcement. The film, as is to be expected, ends with the Biddles lying in snow soaked in their own blood and Mrs. Soffel in prison, but as the Biddles lie there dying, one of the men goes to fire the final shot to kill Ed but is stopped by a fellow officer, who puts his hand on the man's arm and says, `Leave him be, he can't hurt nobody no more.' Given the fact that the Biddles are likely innocent, the slow-motion panning shot of all of the heavily armed men who just gunned down a couple of young brothers fleeing for their freedom and their very lives makes you wonder who is really hurting who. As a side note, I would also like to mention that this is one of those extremely valuable films that Mel Gibson made before the Lethal Weapon series turned him into a Rambo-style Hollywood badass, doomed to make one goofy action film after another, which vainly tries to capture the success of the excellent Lethal Weapon movies (which was, as all series' are, a diminishing one from the first film, although the rate of descent was not as precipitous as many other series I've seen, like Austin Powers) and, to a lesser extent, the Mad Max films. Another of his meaningful early films to check out is the staggering anti-war film Gallipoli, which stands with Mrs. Soffel as one of the most effective dramas he's ever made. Bravo.

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