Wise’s“The Sound of Music” Analysis
Thespring of 1965 coincided with the arrival of “The Sound of Music”arrival. The film met the audiences’ deep-seated need from all overthe world from its soothing entertainment to nimbly balance piety,and from its patriotic feel to redemptive love in a package thatseems undated. This welcoming secure world Austria, as it was meantto be, reflected ably in a smooth narrative that rewarded the viewerswith unexpected locale’s juxtapositions, nuanced characterizations,and subtext, and mood. A lot of critics unabashed “The Sound ofMusic” sentimentality it exhibits however, if at all they refersentimentality to chaste romance, religion free from stereotype,courteous kinfolk, crass humor free from vulgarity and sex, and idealbeauty. In comparison, few films can rival “The Sound of Music”iconic imagery. This paper therefore studies the film and analyzes itbehind the question: How has the element of music in film enthralledand entertain audience? In addition, is culture and socio-politicsimagery the main identity of the film?
Tobegin with, many elements within the film are brought together forpurposes of entertaining the audience. One of the elements is the useof music. Music when used correctly in a film can evoke any kind offeeling, and create any environment needed to engage with theaudience. Braudy (56) noted that Hammerstein and Rodgers, thecomposers of “The Sound of Music” pulled it off with brilliantarrangement of the music to fit perfectly in the film and stagescript. The duo used fluctuating dynamics, which brought the audienceto lows and highs at the perfect time to allow them express thecharacters feelings at that point in time in the film. Throughout themovie, texture and vocals offered complex layering, which appeared tobe a simple composition by offering the scripts, fullness, and life.The duo also expressed their genius ability when it came to memorableuse of melody. For example, a person when asked could be unable tohum to the melody of “My Favorite Things” or the number of smallkids who can study the vocal scales of “Do-re-mea”, or evenremember some scenes and names but he or she can remember thememorable music rendition (Kael 100).
Thedynamics experienced within a section of music rendition orproduction of music in the theatre can trigger changes in theemotion, feeling, and the mood of the entire film production orcomposition dramatically even when everything else remain untouched.An example is watching a familiar movie that has suspense, then payattention to the music when the suspense is imminent. What are goingto be heard in this particular situation are extreme fluctuations inthe music dynamics, which gives a signal to the audience thatsomething immense is going to happen next. “The Sound of Music”film uses this towards the end by using calm but a little unnervingvery low notes that follows a dynamic ultimate peak of the action(Kael 103). The film provides the feel of dominance successfully, asMaria struggles to comfort the children for fear of thunderstorms.The main purpose of this scene is to allow children to assumedominance over their insecurities and fear, and not just because ofthe storm but their lives. The dynamics and the use of song withinthe film offers a “yes I am” kind of a feeling due to the use ofshort yet strong bursts with loud verses drawn out, which soundsalmost like it was meant to trigger a drown out in everything ratherthan what is desired.
Concerningmusic, texture refers to overall quality of sound that is frequentlyindicated by majority of voices that are heard within the section ofmusic, and the relations between the voices. Texture could also bedescribed by integrating such terms as light, thick, smooth, andrough. For example, the texture in “The Sound of Music” gives theaudience more light, theatrical feeling to it. When one hears Mariain “The Sound of Music”, begin to sing, she first begin with asort of low tone, which grasps the audience with her soothing yetsoft melodic voice. According to Struck (141), Maria allows heraudience to familiarize with her unique sense of style. Throughoutthe production, her use of octave never changed, while the use ofstring instrument compliments the use of every song used.
Thefilm’s manipulative power in the enforcement of ideologies happenedtowards the 20thcentury and since then, it has never been abated. The discordance ofintellectualism and conflict when countered provided manipulativeultimate truth through the cinematic image that acted as vision. Forinstance, “Triumph des Willens,” a Nazi Congress Film, providedan almost silent National Socialism tapestry embedded in the imagerecast of a German Romantic paint, pseudo-religious, andarchitectural emblems (Braudy 70). The critics have had their way byrejecting a fascist specific aestheticism in the film. Nevertheless,there is an inevitable sense of medium presence that presentideological fascism platform and a false totality.
Braudy(72) argued that the film presents a more negative attribute byinfluencing the world audience in conveyance of good or badsimplistic dichotomy. Shot in Austria, the film presents a cinematicrepresentation of the country that is appreciated internationallyalthough the film presents a collection of fictitious images theAustrians have not seen before. “The Sound of Music” directed byRobert Wise remains consistent all through, and it is also consideredthe biggest money making films in the history of the country due toits best picture award. The film’s original musical got the ideafrom “The Story of the Trapp Family”, a 1949 book by Maria vonTrapp (Kael 113).
Atthe beginning of the film, the first installment is characterized bya narrative structure that appears to influences both the film andthe stage. When examined in detail, the film gives a substantialdifference from the musical play that is based on. This is primarilybecause Robert Wise chose to offer interpretation on the musicalcinematically instead of remaining loyal to the stage’s version.“The Sound of Music” also has a genre like that of the 1930s tothe 1950s that seems to range from the provincial drama highlightsthe idea of Austrian as a country.
Thefilm when put into cultural perspective, while theoretical concernsare put aside, Braudy (129) recommends that every Austrian worth hersalt should take time and watch since when the film is criticallyanalyzed, it presents a discovery to the world on what Austria ascountry, entails. The film aimed at presenting Austria to the world.It is most influential in the creation of recognizable of the nationand its core values. What stands out in the film is the likelytrivialized resolution on the vague Austria image in the world filmindustry is the knowledge that the country shown in the film is notthe one that the real republic attempts to show the world its alpine,neutralist identity (Kael 71). “The Sound of Music” in Austria isallowed to represent the country, and especially the Salzburg. Asmuch as it is rejected by the critics for its Hollywoodtrivialization or reductionism of the country’s political andsocial history, it still remains immensely tolerated by the peoplethat have not seen it or have not yet critically viewed it.
Fromthe allegory standpoint, the film casts an approving light on an erawith general atmosphere. From a critical point of view, the film doesnot take it as an issue that is defined specifically during thepolitical period but does present the action in the “last years ofgolden thirties”, which is a suggestion of a country doomed withfreedom and sovereignty rather than the first republic strife. In thefilm for example, Maria a postulant and Captain von Trapp develops adualism of Standestaatideology.Just like the post imperial Austria, the von Trapp family, eventhough they live in the remnant aristocratic Austrian tradition, arealienated and motherless from direction or purpose.
VonTrapp as a naval officer, and the country having no borders, and heas a landed aristocrat with no monarch, his lifestyle and identity isattached with the Habsburg past (Struck 97). From this, the movierepresents a conservative country that, from the creation of theFirst Republic all through the Standestaat,itdefines itself as “that which remained after everything hasdisappeared”. “The Sound of Music” also resonates aroundmulticultural, cosmopolitan empire themes, while creating a distinctidentity on Germany’s Habsburg cultural heritage. It is Maria’scharacter in the film that completes Catholicism symbol, whichcompletes the socio-political allegory. For example, her religiousbeliefs felt across the film helps nurture the children while itbrings meaning to their lives. At some point in the film, towards theend of the first part, she assists the Captain to direct his mourningto the “world that slowly fades away” by turning it into a veryeffective example to the children, while she offers a progressive andyet pragmatic stance when dealing with the dangers of his family(Braudy 123).
Theallegory between the Captain and Maria also exists on the consciousclass level. The Captain struggles to escape the loose of his wife inan aristocratic and hedonistic circle. Baroness, in this case,represents a rich socialite who does not care about von Trappchildren although it appears she genuinely loves the Captain. It isequally social refuge for the Captain to be equally fascinated withher – into deceptive security, class, and nostalgia. The Captainand Baroness seemingly impossible union is an allegory, which couldact in place of an unavailable elitist redox and mythical past. Thisis something the Standestaatattemptsto avoid by giving hope to volkischcultureto help balance what appears like imperial cosmopolitan heritagedistinguishing the country from German entity. The audience can seehow von Trapp, who chooses Maria in his life, the lady who representshis past with a realistic present. From the connection of Maria’srural, Alpine, and folk persona with, coupled with Captain’shigh-cultured aristocratic, with Viennese attachment spans not onlythe StandestaatAustrianmission but also the visible geographical post imperial Austria(Braudy 134).
“TheSound of Music” successfully represents the majority of the socialstructured levels, and does not shy away from the Max Detweller’sbourgeois opportunism, a person who closely created an attachmentwith Baroness. From the film, what is evident is the Austrian’ssense of National Socialism, which is seen at the onset of the movie.Examples are characters that spans from minor workers to middle class– Franz the butler, Rolf Gruber the telegram messenger, and theNazi Gauleiter, which signify “pseudo revolution”. For instance,Kael (99) noted that the audiences can imagine Zeller’s commentthat “In Austria, nothing has changed. It is still the same” tendto meet with exact damnation from Germany.
Wise’s“The Sound of Music” represents a battle of symbols thatchallenges any form of semiotican. The Captain is defined by anAustrian with decoration in the form of a crusaders’ cross aroundthe neck, and also having the flag of Austria on his entry section ofthe hall. The counterpoint here is the Nazi flag that is removed,which had been hanged outside his door. This represents the simpleopposites of the struggles of dark against light, black againstwhite.
Thelocation of the film represents demanding geopolitical value: Thecaptain’s Saizburg, which is different from that of Baroness Viennasince it is untainted by military, war memories, politics, andrevolution. The presents of historic bishopric represent an idealCatholic symbol of historical independence and values. The captain’sidentity is shifted towards the end of Anschluss:which is the order that regards it to naval commission stemming fromthe center of Great Reich in German, Berlin (Struck 74).
Similarly,from a microcosmic level, the film’s action that is prior toAnschlusshappens in the locations, which support the ideological Austria ofthe Standestaat:thecaptain’s manor house, the cathedral, and Maria’s convent. Fromthe film, presence of exterior shots offers presence of idealismfreedom – the Austrian history, and the mountains – aroundMirabel Palace and Salzburg. From the Cinematographic point of view,the strong parallelism differs greatly from Austrian Catholic and thefall of Nazism. Anschlussisannounced by Maria’s wedding match coupled with appealing joyousbells dissolved into single dung bell. It is then followedimmediately by a wider, aerial shot of Nazi Soldiers’ orderlycolumns that marches the plaza. Towards the altar, Maria’s movementwith white drapes draws similarity shots from the above, with herlong veil that makes her resemble a kind of butterfly (Struck 75).
Maria’scostumes indeed reflect her growth emotionally from when she was a“worm cocoon” to now a “butterfly”. She returns with a moreelegant, yet strong blue-green dress that ultimately is replaced by awedding gown. According to Kael (101), this color that is associatedwith Maria Theresa, she stands by her husband in resisting to Nazism.
Followingthe Anschluss,thespace appears catastrophic since it is dominated by light and wellexecuted angle shots from within von Trapp mansion and nighttimeshadowy exteriors. The appearance of the festival is haunting fromits lack of ominous attractive surroundings. The silhouettes ofguards, arches, and the ancient outdoor stage triggers the Romancoliseum, colorless world, and a pagan, that overrides the sensuousSalzburg baroque Christianity (Braudy 139).
MaxDetweller’s emceeing duties and the Nazi military uniforms triggersthe seasoning of the audience helps deliver into the “show”, forexample, the Nuremberg party rally of the new order. Again, there isarchways’ transfiguration, yards, and balls of the convent inNazi’s infiltration scenes whereby it appears funereal, dark, andin mourning. From this scene, sunlight fails to appear until thefamily manage to pass through the mountain, albeit the wrong one, tofreedom. This mirrors the opening view of Maria’s joy. Meanwhile,as the audience is enthralled by the clouds descending to meetrejoicing postulant to the nature’s purity, the audience also riseagain with a new family in a more Romantic lowland transcendence ofcorruption (Braudy 154).
Thefilms perhaps, like most Austrian and German cinema of historicalpast takes advantage of utilizing the enlightenment and periods inRomantic conventions to trigger an appeal from the global audiencedue to this very stylistic reasons. In the film, the use of themirror remains the most stylistic feature in the creation of the bestAmerican Broadway theater and redoubtable composing genius RobertWise. The use of waltzes, foxtrots, and folk songs draw limitation onSchubert, Mozart, and Lehar whereby the narrative accommodatesHollywood’s irresistible formula for popularity for example, thenuns, children, heroism, and the love story. “The Sound of Music”film is more of all these clichés that composes its form ofmelodrama. It gives lucid moments of historical and sociopoliticalreflection that is not found towards the dying musical genre of thefilm.
Asa representation of Austria’s identity, “The Sound of Music”offers the audience and the whole world a country that the secondrepublic fails to choose but due to its focus on anti-Nazi Austria.The film also hard provokes dealing with Auschluss.For example, the film does not have any Jewish representation evenfor the appearance of the looming holocaust. This may be because theAustrian reception could be problematic since it got to do with whatis seen as a resistance, a representation of Standestaat.“TheSound of Music” distinctively represents a conservative Cold Warideology of the America more than it does to Austria due to the useof flow and melody that triggers past emotions because of the ColdWar.
Ofmore importance is the use of melody all through the film. It stillremains the most memorable in the history of musicals. When one paysattention to the film as a whole, it automatically hooks a personfrom the onset (Kael111). However, its melody can easily be confusedwith the pitch. As much as the melody is the way in which it movesfrom one note to another, the pitch on the other hand is level ofhighness or the lowness of the particular song. The use of songs inthis film tend to go past the song’s phrase, while towards the end,it takes a leap. For instance, the use of “My Favorite Things”gives a melody that takes the audience’s breath one step higher,which adds to the dramatics of particular scenes making it memorable,and hence it helps build a resolved finish (Struck 89)
Inconclusion, socio-politics and the Austrian culture are wellrepresented in the film, which is boosted by the use of music,melody, and songs that elicits emotions from the audience. Forexample, Robert Wise where the film went on to have a huge impact inthe production stage mastered the use of songs and melody. In anycountry, one goes to, he or she will find the people identifying withthe film since the use of sound and music offers a defining factorfor its successful impact. No matter how and what language the songsare presented in, the melodies, texture, and dynamics are all thesame, and that is the factors that helps hook the memory of theaudience while experience the film the first time. There is notmoment in the world of cinematic production than when Maria towardsthe top of the mountain, where the music is built, then she raisesher arms and at the top of her voice sang “The Hills are Alive”followed by the melody.
Braudy,Leo. The World in a Frame: What We See in Films. Garden City, N.Y:Anchor Press, 1976. Print.
Kael,Pauline. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Film Writings 1965-1967. New York:Marion Boyars, 2009. Print.
Strunk,W O. The Romantic Era: [readings]. New York: W.W. Norton, 1965.Print.