Happy birthday to the one and only Sofia Coppola! Today we’re celebrating this legendary filmmaker.
Sofia Coppola is an American screenwriter, director and actor who is known for her strong aesthetics as well as nuanced and empathetic portrayals of her characters. Though her films span a wide range of time periods, subject matters and color palettes, they always feel distinctly “Sofia,” making her one of the true auteurs of our time.
Famously, Sofia’s father is filmmaker Frances Ford Coppola, which led her to immersion in the film industry from the very beginning of her life. While Sofia was definitely given opportunities that others wouldn’t have gotten so easily, her pure talent and distinctive directorial visions have allowed her to make her own name separate from her father.
Sofia’s debut feature film was The Virgin Suicides (1999), which was based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Euginides. The film follows the lives of five teenage sisters through the eyes of the boys from their neighborhood. The girls are kept under strict surveillance by their overprotective parents, leading to devastating consequences. The whole film maintains a dreamy, hazy aesthetic that reflects the memories of the boys who, now grown up, tell the story of the “virgin suicides.”
From the beginning, Sofia demonstrated a commitment to portraying her female protagonists in all of their complexities—their joy and their depression, their sweetness and their spunk.
From the beginning, Sofia demonstrated a commitment to portraying her female protagonists in all of their complexities—their joy and their depression, their sweetness and their spunk. The Virgin Suicides also shows Sofia’s ability to perfectly balance humor and wit with serious themes and topics, a combination which leaves viewers thinking and talking about her films long after the credits roll.
Following the success of The Virgin Suicides, Sofia directed a series of critically acclaimed films, including Lost in Translation (2003). Taking place in modern-day Tokyo, Lost in Translation tells the story of two strangers, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who form a deep connection while staying at the same hotel.
With an entirely new location and time period from The Virgin Suicides, Sofia established her range with this next film, while also demonstrating her wonderful wit and deep understanding of humanity. This screenplay, which she wrote, was also her first original story. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Sofia’s next film was her most extravagant one, and one of my personal favorite films of all time. Marie Antoinette (2006) is a visually stunning historical drama that explores the life of the titular queen during her reign in France.
Marie Antoinette includes sumptuous production design, an evocative score, and a mesmerizing performance from Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. The film features an explosion of the ruffles, silks and pastels of beautiful dresses, three-foot-tall wigs, and the awe-inspiring extravagance of Versailles, but it is the portrayal of Marie that is the most striking. Though she has been one of the most hated figures in history, Sofia’s Marie is funny, charming, and emotionally deep; her mistakes come from being simply too young to be ruling a country. Over time, Marie Antoinnette has gained a cult following and is now considered a cult classic.
Sofia’s most recent film was The Beguiled (2017), once again demonstrating Sofia’s range as it takes us to the Civil-war era South. Though the aesthetic is distinctly pared down from Marie Antoinette, Sofia yet again showcases her keen eye for an atmosphere with The Beguiled; as FF2 contributor Nicole Ackman puts it, “The film is equally as atmospheric as The Virgin Suicides; as you watch it, you feel the summer’s oppressive heat, making the girls more lethargic—and more volatile.” As always, Sofia infuses vast emotional depth into the women of the film, played brilliantly by stars such as Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and once again, Kirsten Dunst.
With a wide range of aesthetics, each of which is both visually and emotionally moving in its own way, and a unique and important take on the female protagonist, Sofia is a filmmaker whose impact will be known for years to come.
© Julia Lasker (5/14/2023) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read Nicole Ackman’s tribute to Sofia Coppola here.
Read Julia Lasker’s review of The Virgin Suicides here.
Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of The Virgin Suicides here.
Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Lost in Translation here.
Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Marie Antoinette here.
Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of The Beguiled here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Sofia Coppola (Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock).