The Sound of Music (1965)
G. It's a movie that has a significant amount of Nazis that's rated G. Yeah, I mentally played the score from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade whenever a black Rolls Royce roared past the screen. But it's a movie with singing and dancing. The father's a bit of a jerk, but that's all that can really be chalked up to questionable content. It's a G movie through and through.
DIRECTOR: Robert Wise
My wife is going to leave me over this one. I don't like Rodgers and Hammerstein. I've tried. I've tried and failed multiple times. I don't know what it is about that certain brand of musical. I thought I didn't like musicals at all because of my dislike of Rodgers and Hammerstein. But then I saw other musicals and then realized I actually like musicals quite a bit. Maybe it's the operatic element to these movies and plays, but good golly, I find these movies dull. I know that The Sound of Music is a classic, but I just can't get into it. It doesn't hurt that the movie is three hours long.
I'm going to try to respect it as a work of art though. I spent a semester abroad in Austria in college. Big surprise: everyone there was obsessed with The Sound of Music. You'd think that people would start pointing out Arnold landmarks, but it was all The Sound of Music. Like Roman Holiday, if you want a movie to show off how gorgeous your country is, have something like The Sound of Music. For all my griping about this movie, the scale of this film is insane. There are just shots and shots of Julie Andrews in front of some of the most impressive scenery imaginable. I have to imagine that there are certain scenes in the movie just because it is an excuse to film in front of something pretty. When the kids are going on a day trip, that montage is just an amazing excuse to show how pretty Austria really is. It's why they all act like maniacs. There's no reason narratively to have the scene play out that long, so the kids have to act like they are losing their minds in excitement for just being out in nature. It's fine. It's a very pretty movie. It's a good movie to own on Blu-Ray.
I really have the impression that Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Wise have never met a child, let alone an unruly child. The first half of the film, as a parent, stupifies me. I honestly can't wrap my head around it. The kids start off with the traditional Problem Child issue. These kids just won't behave for any of their governesses. But Julie Andrews shows up? She decides to anti-Mary Poppins the whole thing. (It is odd that Julie Andrews has made a career by portraying two separate governesses who act completely differently from one another and gets completely similar results.) But within a day, Maria manages to turn these little ragamuffins around without much to-do. It's her joie de vivre that turns them around. The kids are turds from the moment they meet her. One of them sticks a frog in her pocket and they run off laughing. Liesl straight up comes across as antagonistic to Maria, showing that she's going to be the alpha dog in this relationship.
But Maria does two things and the kids are on board? The first thing she does is kind of narc on them. Did no one else try that? The entire table is crying out of shame for what they did. Um...bad kids don't feel bad for doing bad things. The second thing she does is...not narc on Liesl? Liesl instantly trusts Maria after this moment. They are best of friends. Somehow, Maria becomes an outlet for Liesl, who is apparently desperate for attention. Now, I'm griping about all this. This is Hollywood logic, but Maria takes the easiest role possible in shaping these children and they are just on board. This kind of leads to them acting like absolute nutbags for the rest of the movie. Seriously, they find fun in the most ridiculous things. I know that Captain Von Trapp starved them of fun, but then why are they villains to people who could offer an alternative to the tyranny of their father? Out of all the governesses that attempted to have this job, did none of them say, "Okay, kids, playtime?" I don't buy it.
I'm griping about this movie because I can. People who like this movie are better people than I. They simply see the joy of a musical and the emotions that accompany that joy. But there are some really weird choices. "Do, a Deer" is a song literally explaining what singing is. The kids don't know what singing is. That's a really weird choice considering that the Von Trapp family become famous for singing. Dad goes away for a month. These kids don't know what singing is and he comes back --they know complex eight part harmony. Then Captain Von Trapp joins in? He's ready to fire her and he's like, "Oh, they sing now? You're the best."
Maybe it isn't the operatic nature of Rodgers and Hammerstein that blows my mind. It's the weird logical leaps that the stories take while progressing. I have the exact same problems with Oklahoma. The characters shift where they shouldn't shift. The plot needs to move forward, so we're just going to ignore character development and conflict up to this point for the sake of the story moving forward. And The Sound of Music has too much plot.
The Sound of Music has the following A plots, but not at the same time:
A) Maria needs to find her true calling
B) These kids just won't listen
C) Dad needs to rediscover his happiness
D) Maria needs to win over Dad's love
E) The family needs to escape the Nazis
Now, lots of movies have multiple plot threads. Some of those plot threads above could blend together. But then the last third of the movie is Captain Von Trapp fleeing Nazis. The movie stopped even writing new music for this point in the movie. All of the songs are played before the Intermission. Every song in the second half of the film is a reprise from the first half. Christopher Plummer sings "Edelweiss" twice. Was he contracted to sing at least one song and the film just decided to use it as much as possible?
I love scenes where rebels sing the national anthem in the face of the Nazis. Someone on my Catholic Movie Geeks group on Facebook commented that everyone hates the scene in Casablanca where La Marsaillaise is chanted in face of the Nazi interlopers. That's one of my favorite scenes and it is a weird assumption that people hate that scene. So why doesn't "Edelweiss" sell me like that? I mean, it might be one of the better scenes in the movie. It's conceptually great. But it doesn't have the same effect on me that Casablanca does. There's something missing. Perhaps that the Nazi stuff doesn't get the devotion that the rest of the film does. The first act teases that Rolfe is a Hitler youth, but not much is done with the exception of an odd mention here and there.
I was going to write this whole bit about how history is rewritten to make the story more epic here. But then I realized that complaining about that would just make me a turd. Having the Von Trapps cross the mountains is way more epic. I don't care if the geography doesn't really support it. Narratively, there needed to be a way that was epic and included the landscape of Austria to build into the escape. I don't think that my complaints reflect the idea that the events didn't reflect reality. Reality is one thing; cinema is another. That is one thing that I'm going to let go.
I'm sorry I don't like this movie. People absolutely adore this movie and I get why. It's just that Rodgers and Hammerstein drive me up the wall for the most part. There are so many things that they have created that do absolutely nothing for me. Watching this wasn't a burden because the music is extremely memorable. But in terms of being emotionally moved, I'm just dead inside, I guess.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.