There is much to relish in this fine film, maybe the Director's finest. There is the rich and beautiful black and white compositions that invest every frame with considerable aesthetic power. There are fine performances from all - grave diggers, porters, villagers, revolutionaries, aristocrats. There is stunning direction - one instance is the scene where military officer Erich - the object of desire of Sophie - enters her bedroom with her at her dressing table only to find younger military officer Plessen standing at her bedside about to light a cigarette. We know from a previous scene, that Sophie prefers to makeup her face after lovemaking and it is almost a cinematic convention of old, that lovers light up post coitus. Plessen offers Erich a cigarette, just like the gentleman Plessen is, and just like the gentleman Erich is, he takes it. As this business carries on, the camera remains still, Sophie remains still, Plessen and Erich finally stand still - all the while we the audience see the reflection of the bed in the dressing table mirror LOOMING centre stage, infesting our minds with the wildest possible imaginings no amount of explicit goings on could replace. Silence is held as tension builds and builds and at the moment perfect Erich turns and exits.
It is set towards the beginning of the 20th century at a time when the world was convulsed with KIngs and Queens and those that profited thereby fighting off change; when Nationalism had poisoned the minds of millions; when revolution and world war had laid waste a generation of European men.
The film is, I suppose a love story but it has as ONE major theme among a number the conflict between the world of men and the world of women - not just reason versus feeling but the whole panoply of honour, action, pride, duty, patriotism, class that bedevils many men and which blinds them to life.
I must add, that the final moments of the film, will remain with me forever. Without disclosing that ending, the final moments include a train, filled with soldiers trundling off in to the rest of the 20th century - and what havoc it did wreak!
But to conclude - there is, to use a cliche, something for many different types of movie goer to find in this film - man against man, violence, love, jealousy, the encroachment of change, idealism, politics, war - read at a simple or complex level. One fascinating journey is Sophie's, which in itself, is a rich one.
A brilliant film.