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THE SOUND OF MUSIC, 1965
Movie Review

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THE SOUND OF MUSIC,   MOVIE POSTERTHE SOUND OF MUSIC, 1965
Movie Reviews

Directed by Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn and Peggy Wood.
Review by Jayvibha Vaidya


SYNOPSIS:

When Maria leaves an Austrian convent to become a governess to the von Trapp children, she finds herself with quite the challenge: seven mischievous children, a stern but loving widower and her growing feelings for the family. But when the Nazi Forces enter Austria, their presence threatens everything the family holds dear, changing their lives, and their country, forever.

WON 5 OSCARS – Best Picture, Director, Editing, Music, and Sound.

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REVIEW:

"You have to live the life you were born to live.”

She strides up to the house, tripping briefly but still full of confidence. Insulting the stuffy Captain, defying the rules and sewing the children clothes from old drapes, Maria’s presence in the von Trapp home is a breath of fresh air. She’s bold and honest, bringing “music back into the house.” Loosely based on a true story and a Broadway production, The Sound of Music was released in 1965 and has remained a timeless classic. The film follows sweet, but unfocused Maria (Julie Andrews) who is sent away from the Abbey to be a governess for the von Trapp children. Finding the children weary of a long line of governesses and desperate for attention from their distant father (Christopher Plummer), Maria gets to work sorting out the unspoken feelings that swirl around the huge house. And what better way to do that than with song.

The film features musical masterpieces crafted by the talented Rodgers and Hammerstein; tunes that are catchy, well-written and perfectly placed within the narrative. Songs such as “Do-Re-Mi,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “Favorite Things,” are all recognizable classics several decades later. The musical numbers aim to either further the story along (“Farewell” for the family’s final getaway) or emphasize a moment of emotional bonding (“Edelweiss” for the Captain and Liesl to have a father/daughter moment). The songs serve as moments of teaching and connection, taking its time to have fun and showcase the performers’ talents. They’re also well-shot, tracking back as Maria and the children ride their bikes through the park in “Do-Re-Mi.” It’s a beautiful moving shot; matching the song’s energy and joy.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, the film manages to consistently entertain because it’s well-paced and well-written. Bringing together the director and screenwriter from West Side Story, Robert Wise creates a visually beautiful film with Ernest Lehman’s screenplay telling a simple story using perfectly placed narrative points. For viewers who aren’t fond of musicals, the film can seem a tad long, but there is a story and it’s quite gripping.

As the Nazis gain strength and presence in Austria, the Captain is forced to support the new group or face punishment. But for him, aligning himself with the Nazis isn’t an option nor should it be for Austria. As a wedding scene cuts to the Nazi flag, the film shifts tonally as the family, newly strengthened by solid parental figures, flees their country to escape an oppressive force. At the music festival, songs take on a new meaning; to say good-bye to a country and to cloak their getaway. The sunlight fades away, replaced by dark shadows. The music is gone, filled in only by the sound of footsteps, and panicked breaths. It’s a tense, suspenseful moment as the audience holds their breath along with the family, rooting for their successful escape. And then, just as the opening aerial shot features snowy mountains and a lone Maria, the last shot contains the same snowy mountains with Maria now part of a family; finally having discovered her purpose, her contribution to the world. As the sun rises again, the new von Trapp family begins an arduous trek toward freedom.

The film is filled with breath-taking location shots of Austria along with gorgeous interior sets. The camera takes it time sliding through the massive von Trapp home, the mountains, Abbey, orchards and church; creating moods that reflect the changing emotions in each Act.

The performances elevate the film to its classic status. The exquisite Julie Andrews is the perfect mix of funny, charming and assertive. And although Christopher Plummer has famously stated he disliked making the film, the chemistry he shares with Ms. Andrews is undeniable. Fighting about whistles and bedtimes or dancing the Ländler, Maria and the Captain are completely compatible. The gazebo scene when they confess their feelings for each other is quiet, romantic and beautifully shot. The sophisticated Eleanor Parker, who plays the Baroness, is charming and manipulative, revealing an understanding of human motivations. The von Trapp children are all well cast, with each child’s personality making an impression for the audience. There are moments when scenes become sugary-sweet, but thankfully never bring insincerity to the story.

A woman in search of way to do God’s work manages to bring together a family through music and dance. When beliefs and values are tested, the family displays a quiet strength in a bittersweet yet hopeful ending. The Sound of Music is a musical film experience, successfully combining memorable songs, choreography, humour and suspense.

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