My return to the Musical chapter of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book sees me settling into Robert Wise’s multi-Oscar winning (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Editing and Best Music) adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music.
Starring Julie Andrews (in an Oscar nominated performance) and Christopher Plummer Wise’s adaptation, much like his adaptation of West Side Story has become the definitive version, eclipsing any stage version that may have come before or after it.
Andrews stars as Maria, a hopeful, if unruly nun in training. Her Mother Superior and the rest of the convent are trying to figure out what to do with her, when the opportunity presents itself. Captain Von Trapp (Plummer) needs a new governess, they’ve been through twelve, for his seven children.
He runs his household like his last command, ordered, regulations, and nary a smile to be seen. Maria comes along, and shakes things up, and the entire family falls in love with her, and she begins to develop feelings for the Captain.
Against the beautiful backdrop of Austria, which Wise makes sure to put on screen at every opportunity, framing gorgeous images and iconic scenes, the Von Trapps and Maria find themselves, even as they begin to lose their beloved country due to the invading Nazis.
Clocking in at almost three hours (I don’t think Wise could make a short film) the experience is beautiful, stunningly shot, and features some strong performances and song after song that has found its way into popular culture, and the mass subconscious.
Andrews’ Maria is definitive, and is filled with joy and love, and brings the film to glorious life, she inhabits Maria, and you feel, laugh, sing and love with her, and there is so much of each in the film.
Wise takes his time with the storytelling, letting the music and the character beats advance the story, and then dazzling us over and over with the sights. There is nothing rushed, the leads are given their arcs, and while the Nazis present a very real and credible threat, the Baroness (Eleanor Parker) who has designs on the Captain is a bit of a non-starter. Honestly, there is no real chemistry between her and Plummer so that bit was pretty unbelievable.
It’s amazing how many of the songs have transcended the film, you might sing or hum one, and most everyone would recognise it, even if they couldn’t tell you where it came from. It’s amazing when a film has that much power, that it has become so ingrained in the collective subconscious.
And the amazing thing is, counting this screening of it, I have seen this film all of twice. That’s it. But it’s been an amazing experience both times.
When was the last time you saw it?