The Sound of Music
It is impossible to ignore ”The Sound of Music”. It was one of the major releases of 1965 and one of the highest grossing movies of its age. At Wikipedia it is listed to have cost $8.2 million and earned $286.2 million at the box office. That is serious return on the investment. Everybody knows “The Sound of Music”. Television will regularly air it, in Denmark typically around Christmas. I saw a stage version in Israel in Hebrew a few years ago. Even people who have not seen it will be familiar with the music.
So, even if you do not like this musical, its influence and cultural impact is undeniable.
I am not a fan, I am afraid. The story has always been too sugary for my taste and I generally have a hard time with the musical format, with this one pressing many (though not all) the wrong buttons (no dancing cowboys…). Still I have to admit that the production value is pretty awesome and that the music has lasting power. How often do you meet a musical where every single song is a classic? Every single one!
This means that watching “The Sound of Music” I am strangely torn. A part of me is rolling my eyes at the overly sweet children in their choreographed play, shaking my head at obvious plot holes and improbabilities or wishing for more bit and grittiness in the excuse for crisis’s this story has. Another part is happily enjoying the catchy songs or the beautiful scenery and vistas of Salzburg and the surrounding lands. I understand why the fans love this movie and I wish I could too, but, alas, it misses as much as it hits for me.
Maria (Julie Andrews) is a lively nun who gets assigned to be a governess for Captain von Trapp’s seven children. Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) is a strict father who since his wife died has lived a humorless life. The children have been through a string of governesses, but like Mary Poppins, Maria is good with children and what Poppins does with magic, Maria does with music. Suddenly the children, who knew nothing of singing, has become a champion choir, enough so that their uncle Max (Richard Haydn) wants to employ them for a folk music festival. Von Trapp is mightily upset about all the singing and playing, but in record time and with hardly a fight he is enjoying the singing too and even pitches in with a bit of Edelweiss.
Von Trapp brings home a woman, Baroness Elsa von Schraeder (Eleanor Parker), who is after the money and the prize widower. When it becomes clear that the Captain is a little too interested in Maria she almost manages to get her out of the way, but when Maria quickly returns von Shcraeder quietly retires. A big showdown that fizzles into nothing.
All is now happy happy until the Nazis take over and von Trapp is commandeered to take command of a ship in Bremerhafen. Loath to do so he escapes with his entire family on foot over the mountains into Switzerland. This is the suspense moment of the movie and it almost gets exciting. Almost. The real excitement here is how they are accomplishing the no less than 300 km walk from Salzburg to Switzerland.
I love the pictures of Austria in this movie. Salzburg is looking beautiful and it is also so in reality. Those castles and monasteries really are like fairytales. So are the rivers and the mountains and for this alone I can forgive many of the flaws of the movie.
Still there is just no way around those songs. It is not my kind of music and it is not what I would put on on a Sunday afternoon, but those songs are catchy and even I am not insensitive to that.