Overview/Rating/Length: A singing nun is sent to work as a governess for Captain von Trapp and his seven children, and melts his icy military heart with her music, gumption, and earnest concern for the children’s well-being. Rated: G; Robert Wise Productions/Twentieth Century Fox; 174 minutes.
How do you Review a Classic Like The Sound of Music?: I remember the first time I saw The Sound of Music. I was three or four, and it was on TV at our hotel. My parents made me turn it off and go to bed before it was over, but not before I’d learned Do-Re-Mi by heart. When my daughter was born last year, I sang everything to her, but Do-Re-Mi really made her smile, and so in the evening, dancing around the kitchen for her amusement as I cleaned and washed dishes, I sang Do-Re-Mi. When a movie and its songs are as much a part of our cultural canon as are The Sound of Music and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s score, how do you review the film? It transcends judgment. Whether the film is good or not doesn’t matter (but don’t worry–it’s good). You will see it, because you have to see it, because everyone sees it. However…
There Must [Be] a Moment of Truth: Typical of musicals of the time, The Sound of Music is set against a backdrop of cultural conflict, and although most of the musical is relatively lighthearted, at its end we find Maria, the Captain, and the children fleeing, as Captain Von Trapp’s status as an Austrian nationalist is now not only a social liability, but a grave threat to his family’s safety. Up until their performance at the competition, the Nazi threat is secondary to the Maria+Captain Von Trapp plot, although there are occasional moments of tension that tell us their wholesome Austrian gentry life is coming to an end. Once the romance is neatly tied off with a marriage, however, the film turns to the imminent danger in which the Von Trapp Family Singers find themselves, and as they are forced out of their comfortable home and see the end of the country they love, so the viewer is forced out of the comfortable love story and into the reality of recent history and the Anschluss. The film’s treatment of the Nazi occupation is honest, yet not overwhelming, and the final poignant performance of “Edelweiss” captures the heartbreak caused by the loss of country and identity… The movie could end there and I’d be satisfied.
My Heart Wants to Sing Every Song: This film is charming and heartfelt, and this comes across most in the music and, in particular, through the actors’ performance of that music. Julie Andrews is just extraordinary. She will forever be extraordinary. She not only had incredible range, but she’s got charisma that can carry a film (not that this one needs carrying). When she runs down the road, swinging her bag, singing “I Have Confidence,” you recognize yourself in her – insecure, yet brave. Confident, yet intimidated. Almost recklessly determined. Without her performance, none of that would come across. Christopher Plummer’s singing was partially overdubbed with the voice of Bill Lee, but either voice (it’s hard to distinguish) is a joy to hear. When Captain Von Trapp performs Edelweiss for his children, we can hear his heart aching for his beloved country, which he knows he must soon give up. It’s disappointing to learn that Plummer hates that he’s known most for this part; it should be an honor to be so loved by so many.
You can Sing Most Anything: If you want to be part of the Western world, see this movie. If you haven’t watched it in a while, watch it again. Let Julie Andrews teach you to sing, and your children to sing, because “When you know the notes to sing…”