This is one of those films that everyone seems to know intimately well, having watched it regularly since childhood. I regret to inform you that I did not have that childhood. Instead, my childhood was marked by a toy consisting of a pair of kittens in a basket that, upon turning a key, would play a tinny-sounding “My Favorite Things” while the kittens swayed in unison. They were so well synchronized because they were part of the same metal frame fused together, I discovered after investigating underneath the basket. I also learned that the music played on a metal cylinder with holes drilled at appropriate intervals, though I didn’t realize the tune’s origin until many years later.
Up until watching The Sound of Music this past weekend, all I really knew of the plot came from moments recreated on Family Guy. And I suspect a significant chunk of the movie ended up in parody form at some point; I almost convinced myself that I’d seen the movie before because of the familiarity of the final scenes at the concert and the cemetery. Who knows? Maybe I have.
Like most romances, this one begins with the dude acting like an asshole because the woman is being herself. The free-spirited Maria can’t hack it as a nun, so they send her to manage a brood of children under the tyrannical leadership of their naval officer father, Von Trapp (who is surprisingly resistant to the tyrannical leadership of Hitler). Somehow, with the help of a few show-stopping numbers, everybody gets along (except for Hitler). That pretty much sums up the film. I suspect most people reading this know far more about it than I do.
In terms of the 1960s decade, there’s a relative dearth of war pictures, and there’s probably a good reason for it. World War II was distant enough by that point that it didn’t hang quite so heavy on people’s lives, and by the time the Vietnam War dominated the news, it’s understandable that people wanted to avoid thinking about it in their entertainment. The closest you get is this, which is more romance than drama, a little too upbeat to really delve deeply into the horrors of war.
Admittedly, The Sound of Music is an unusual choice for a war-themed series. While the threat of war looms heavily on the story, particularly in the later moments, it’s not really a “war movie” per se. Then again, nothing says war like Nazis. I thought it would be interesting to include regardless, as a contrast of sorts to the other angles we’ve seen of war thus far: the cold monotony of trench warfare, the recovery of soldiers back home, the drudgery and adventure of troops and commandos. Here is a pleasant family life spoiled by war. The story of The Sound of Music suggests more to me of the lives of Jews in Germany and throughout Eastern Europe, forced to uproot their lives to escape the Nazis. I don’t know enough about the making of the film (or its original musical) to determine whether the story of this family is meant to reflect the struggles of oppressed peoples, or if it’s just that so many of the stories of refugees were similar. Except maybe the part with the singing kids.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this film, being all cool and cynical, but I mostly did. Not having seen it, I still recognized so many of the songs, which have percolated into popular culture (and creepy children’s toys). As a kid, I remember getting bored in the musical numbers of movies, wanting them to just get on with the damn story already, and I feel a little of that here, too. Fortunately, these days, I have a smartphone to distract me.
Which War? World War II (Anschluss)
First Time Watching? Yes. For God’s sake, yes, I’ve never seen it before!
Final Verdict: How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? I mean, will it just sit there, or do you have to wrap it up in your fist, or what?