I had dreaded this movie. I’ve never been able to sit through it before. That opening cadence, ‘The hills…’, has tortured my ears since I last tried to watch it. I just couldn’t bear the shrillness of Julie Andrew’s voice, and the knowledge that in a few minutes I would be watching…urgh…singing children.
But I take it all back.
The Sound of Music is a true story which begins just prior to the Anschlus, Germany’s political annexation of Austria in the lead up to the Second World War. Julie Andrews plays a free-spirited nun who is sent away to take care of a family of 7 children. She soon falls in love with their father (luckily for them Mum isn’t around), and they marry. But Captain von Trapp’s love of Austria doesn’t sit well with the new regime, and the family must flee accross the border to Switzerland.
The film’s strength is in it’s construction. Firstly, the music. The melodies are often plain, but beautiful all the same in their simplicity – Eidelweiss springs to mind here. What really knocks the Rogers and Hammerstein score up there is the way that a melody’s first use tends to be a seed, then used again in a later moment or motif. In fact, the music and melody tend to be as much of a character as the people, as familiar by the end of the film as any of the Von Trapp children. Simple but clever, the sound of the music is easily the highlight (so sorry for that pun).
Like the music, the story progression is also very clever. With the opening set in the sweeping alps of Austria, we’re lulled by Andrews into a sense of comfort which is eventually shattered by the Nazi annexation. The climax is startlingly tense, as the child-like simplicity of the music and earlier tale suddenly become a sanctuary from the Nazi nightmare which hunts the family.
I never thought I would say it, but The Sound of Music is great. Julie Andrews is a true actress (rather than a star like Audrey Hepburn), the story-telling is excellent and the film persistently hits just the right tone. A classic for good reason.