Screen Time: 95%
Role: Sofie Amundsen/Hilde Møller Knag
Age: 14 years old
Directed: Erik Gustavson
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Historical
Sophie, a young girl, finds anonymous letters in her mail posing philosophical questions. She starts a correspondence with the mysterious pen-pal and uses what she learns to unravel the mystery of another girl, Hilde, whose mail also keeps arriving in Sophie's mail box.
Movie ReviewsSophie's World June 24, 2005
Silje Storstein as Sophie in Sophie's World.
There are many ways to approach the learning of philosophy. First, one of the hard ways.
Open Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness and the following conceptual jumble assaults your brain: "Consciousness is a being whose existence posits its essence, and inversely it is consciousness of a being, whose essence implies its existence . . . We must understand that this being is no other than the transphenomenal being of phenomena and not a noumenal being which is hidden behind them."
Makes your brain hurt, doesn't it. Now, for those of you who didn't beeline to the liquor cabinet to bleach Sartre's linguistic peat bog from your transphenomenal being, here's an easier way to sample the delights of philosophical inquiry: grab a mug of hot cocoa, curl up on the lounge, and turn to Sophie's World.
Journeys though the world of philosophy don't come much sweeter than this four-part drama based on Jostein Gaarder's book of the same name. Sophie is a 14-year-old who has a batty mother and an inquisitive mind. Anonymous letters start to arrive for her, sparking a tour through the history of philosophy. "Who are you?" asks the first. "Where did the world come from?" asks the next. Before we know it we're in ancient Greece watching Socrates sentenced to death for encouraging people to think for themselves, and hearing Plato explain that the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it.
To get there we are transported by a kind of Norwegian magic realism, in which the mysterious letters turn up in impossible places, a school essay writes itself, and a dog acts as a go-between to lead Sophie to her philosophy guide. In later episodes we accompany Sophie to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Romanticism and the Russian Revolution.
The questions Sophie asks of the world are common to the teenager and the Western philosophical tradition: issues of identity, the purpose of existence, and the rules of living. They are the questions we asked when we were young but put aside to get on with life when it became clear that you can't continue to live with such important questions unanswered and that the answering would take a lifetime.
Sophie's World reminds us about those questions and prompts us to think about them again. It also shows us that there are more enjoyable ways to engage with philosophy than Sartre.