|THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)|
|"Oh, there's nothing wrong with the children. Only the governesses."|
|Time: 177 mins. |
Won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Score, Best Sound and Best Picture. Nominated for 5 other awards.
I know it's extremely girly of me to like this film. In fact, it's my favorite musical. I try to catch it at least once a year because it makes me happy. Unlike most musicals of the time, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a more complete film. One that could stand on it's own and be just as enjoyable without the songs. Certainly the songs make the film more fun, adding levity to a dark theme, but they merely add to the dialogue, not replace it. That makes the fact the characters are singing more believable. Maria uses music to get the Von Trapp children to like and trust her, to bring joy back into their lives and reconnect them to their father. The film also holds up better because it was shot on location and not on a soundstage, giving the film a grandeur and lushness most musicals lack.
If you've somehow managed to never see this movie, you must have been living under a rock all these years. It's such a part of our popular culture that I knew many of the songs as a child long before I'd ever seen the movie. The film tells the story of Maria (Andrews), a young woman on her way to becoming a nun, who ends up discovering her true calling in life as a wife and mother. I know, very girly. Though Maria is good-natured and spiritual, the other nuns in the convent feel that she may be following the wrong life path. She has too much energy and interest in the outside world to be happy cooped up in the convent. In order to test her resolve, they get her a job as the governess to an unruly group of children the Von Trapps. Aged from about 4 to 16, these seven children have proven to be a match for many a woman caretaker.
Their father Captain von Trapp (Plummer) is counting on Maria to keep them in line and out of his way. He loves his children, but has been emotionally distant with them since the death of their mother. Maria is instantly attracted to him, but surpresses her feelings because she believes her calling is to God. Plus, he's already involved with someone else, the evil Baroness Schraeder. The Captain knows the children aren't ecstatic over his choice of stepmother, but believes they will come around in time. Maria isn't exactly welcomed with open arms by the children either. Though she turns out to be made of stronger stuff than they originally thought and even stands up for them against their father. Children should be allowed time to play and sing and soon Maria and the kids become fast friends. They'd much rather have Maria for a mother than the Baroness, so they plot and scheme to make it so. It doesn't take long for the Captain to see what a joy Maria is to their lives. The Baroness tries to break them apart, but her nasty little plans don't succeed in the end.
While all this is happening, there's danger afoot in the background from a little conflict called WWII. Captain von Trapp is called by the Third Reich to join the German Army. The Captain is disgusted by Hitler and his policies and believes that Austria should remain an independent country. Their request is mandatory. He will serve and they make sure of it by sending a group of soldiers to escort him to his new post. The final third of the film deals with how the family escapes to Switzerland. The little love story gets an action adventure twist as they try to escape the Germans clutches. It becomes a real nail-bitter with a bit of humorous help from the nuns and a bitter betrayal from a young love. At almost 3 hours, THE SOUND OF MUSIC covers the gamut of emotions. The time period really gives the story an extra sense of bittersweet urgency.
Julie Andrews gives the performance of a lifetime as the spunky, pretty, innocent Maria. Her voice is pure and powerful, giving the songs a playfulness and sweetness that are a joy to the ear. Maria may be young and inexperienced, but she's not dumb and she has a sense of righteous honor that won't be denied. Andrews hits every note, acting and singing, perfectly. It's not hard to understand why Maria would be instantly attracted to Captain von Trapp. Christopher Plummer is charming, sexy and intelligent as the wounded widower. Who could resist? Most performances by children in the movies are cloying and annoying. The actors who portray the von Trapp children are smart and endearing. They make the most of their screen time, making you wish they were around more not an easy feat. Richard Haydn brings a nice comic touch to the proceedings as the irascible family friend Max and Eleanor Parker does a perfect job as the cold-hearted Baroness, a thankless role.
There aren't many perfect films out there, but THE SOUND OF MUSIC is pretty close to being one. It's a classic for a reason and is mesmerizing to watch no matter how many times you've seen it. Filled with music, laughter and danger, it's a film with a little something for everyone. Yes it has singing nuns, but that just adds to the fun. This is a definite must-see, especially on DVD with all the extra behind-the-scenes materials.