This, the greatest of our Hollywood musicals, needs no commendation. Most have seen it several times and are familiar with the story. For the few that have not, you have something to look forward to.
Reviews of “The Sound of Music” are legion so I will not bother with another. A few words about the music, though, may be helpful in appreciating the movie. For, as the title suggests, it is the music that is the soul of the film.
Like the movie’s setting, the songs are expansive, sunny, and joyous. It is remarkable that two New Yorkers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, were able to capture just the right spirit of quiet and simple life in the Austrian Alps.
Here are a few of my favorites.
“The Sound of Music”
The title song is one of the best. The music and the lyrics set the tone for the rest of the movie.
The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears
The Alps serve as the backdrop of the film. They are not only featured in the opening and closing scenes (both include beautiful panoramic shots), but they provide an unstated theme: people and governments may come and go, but the hills will endure. As will music.
“My Favorite Things”
Brown paper packages tied up in string, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, silver white winters that melt into springs. One would be hard-pressed to give a better list of the best things in life. The song is a celebration of the simple over the flashy and it mirrors the love triangle that Captain von Trapp finds himself in. He must choose between the plain and earthy Maria and the sophisticated Baroness (played to the hilt by the lovely Doris Lloyd). After much soul-searching, the Captain realizes where and with whom his heart truly lies.
“The Lonely Goatherd”
This song, sung by Maria and the children while performing a marionette for the Captain, is great fun. If you have forgotten the tune, it combines an Oktoberfest drinking song with a generous portion of yodeling. Very Austrian and very right. Julie Andrews and the children play the scene, and the song, for all its worth.
This is my favorite song in the film. It is sung twice: first by the Captain with Liesl singing harmony and a second time by the entire von Trapp family during the Salzburg Folk Festival. When he first sings it, the Captain is reminded of the important things of life, particularly music and his children: the two things he has forgotten since the death of his first wife. It appears again near the end. This time with a note of sadness. The Captain, wishing to leave Austria and a German naval commission before the Anschluss, offers it as farewell to his beloved homeland.
Edelweiss, if you did not know, is a wooly white flower that is found only in high elevations. In Austria it is a tradition for men to present bouquets of edelweiss to their sweethearts on St. Valentine’s. Since it grows in inaccessible places, the man demonstrates his sincere intentions by risking his life for love. But beyond this, the edelweiss represents everything that the mountainfolk of Germany and Austria love about their country. And the song taps right into this theme.
(For World War II buffs, the edelweiss was the emblem of the Wehrmacht’s 1.Gebirgs-Division. A company of this outfit planted the Third Reich’s flag on Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, during 1942 Caucus campaign. It did not stay there long. As part of the disastrous operation that ended in the encirclement of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad, 1. Gebirgs was forced to make a slow, grueling retreat. One can imagine how their divisional badge reminded the Austrian or German Landser of his home hundreds of miles away.)
The movie is often dismissed as sentimental and corny. Such criticism is humbug. Almost everything good in life celebrated: first love, marriage, children, humor, sacrifice, attachment to one’s homeland, and, of course, music. If the sophisticates cannot see the beauty of these things, or the beauty of the film, so much the worse for them.
My family watches “Sound of Music” several times a year. There must be a saturation point when one finally says, “enough.” If so, we have not reached it yet. Few movies are worth owning on DVD. This is one of them.