T O P I C R E V I E W
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 10-27-2012 06:29 AM
When I was growing up we had a copy of "The Sound of Music" taped from the tv, but it didn't fit on the VHS so I only ever saw the first half of the movie. I just saw the 2nd part last night and wow it was horrific! I don't know if there's anything I've been gladder to have missed. I feel like I fell down a cultural crevice and found some nice friends down there. The version of the sound of music I grew up with ended just before the wedding, essentially it's a film without any real bad-guys (bearing in mind I didn't understand the references to impending nazi take-overs of Austria). It's a happy film essentially celebrating a female character Maria, and the relationships she has especially with a 7 kids, singing songs... The conflicts they experience are interpersonal, people care for each-other but don't know how to express it. The children's dad, captain Von Trapp, is uptight and conservative because he's still mourning his dead wife. Musical expression breaks the spell and he lets out his emotions and allows him to communicate with his children and admit a less socially acceptable attraction to Maria who has been working for him. The flirtation in the film is pretty hot, his flirty bossiness at the begining of the film seems pretty attractive to me. The conflict between his fiance and maria as competing love interests isn't depicted hatefully and 'the Baroness' is shown not to scorn Maria for becoming so important to the children's father but rather struggles to accept it but then gives the new relationship her blessing and identifies that their relationship will not work, despite how much she previously liked them. Even the nuns seem depicted sympathetically rather than in comical slapstick. I know it's a bit heteronormative, and maria is bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but she seems very much the focus of the film's attention and doesn't give anything up. It is even a film with more female characters than male characters, who often talk to each-other and about a lot more than just the male characters. AND THEN I SAW PART TWO, in which Maria is a married woman, who no longer wears the cheap clothes she previously preferred and defended as adequate and thrifty, but is instead dolled up in expensive clothes, essentially tamed, no more skipping in the fields having picnics! Meanwhile the Nazis take over Austria, the captain refuses to submit to their authority and the family has to run for their lives, when the youngest of the kids asks if they could try singing a song, Maria tells her "This is one time when music won't help us", the only thing that can help them is however is captain von trapp who fights the nazi's and defends the family and marches them to safety over the alps to switzerland. The message seemed to be that you have to get married if you're in love, then stuff is all serious, you don't get to be tomboyish and have to conform, a woman's role is isolated to the home, she has no value in the outside world, where it is only a man who can be an agent of change or force for good, the whole family, including their happy experiences in the first half of the movie (which seemed to challenge him) is completely dependent on his power. There's nothing mentioned about what was bad about the nazis other than that they threatened the family unit, and threatened the nationalistic self-image of Austrians like Captain Von Trapp. The movie is flooded with dudes with guns... male dominance is re-asserted and feminism gets shot in the back. Incredibly a film which concerns the fascist tragedies of the 20th century gets to defend nationalism and ignore the holocaust. Threatening the wealth of abundantly rich people like captain von trapp is made out to be a realistic indication of what they did wrong, ignoring a holocaust! And as far as images of the third reich are concerned, opulence and blonde white people singing on hills are not exactly images that were shied away from. Essentially completely horrible film! I'm so glad it's a film I didn't grow up with, and I'm pretty lucky to have seen a 100% different one! I thought I should share the joy of realising that but which unfortunately comes with the sad realisation that the film, and the world which made it are something much uglier than I thought. Has anyone else had a completely opposite interpretation of some piece of crappy culture that actually turns it into something somewhat positive, just by having an incomplete experience of it, or a fortunate misinterpretation? I'm eager for more to misinterpret! [ 10-27-2012, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]
Member # 79774
posted 10-27-2012 04:32 PM
I actually interpreted The Sound of Music a little differently. I've seen the film, but am much more familiar with the original(?) musical (though, small disclaimer, I've sat through the entire dialogue 10-20 times, but never get to hear any important stuff that happens in song...) The line "this is one time when music won't help us" actually gets turned on its head, because it turns out to be the thing that Does help them: von Trapp was about to be arrested but begged to be allowed to perform at a major musical event that night with his family, they wowed the audience, and escaped. "Music saving the day" is a little twee, perhaps, but in line with the rest of the film and the value Maria brought to their lives. I agree that it never sits well when there's no mention of the Holocaust in anything referencing Nazism. There's also the question of "what happened to the very many people who Didn't escape...?" I don't think it's quite as bad as simply "threatening the wealth of abundantly rich people" - von Trapp was about to be arrested, and what would've happened to him and his family wouldn't've been good, rich or no. It's a little - romanticised - how the hero of the film was a Nazi resistor rather than collaborator, but the clear collaboration of other characters I think just about avoids glossing over the truth that many Austrians did collaborate and weren't simply invaded victims. Agree about the discomfort of the portrayal of enormous sadness of nationalistic interests being threatened/destroyed as opposed to, say, the mass horrors committed against many people. Although, I did find the scene of the massed Nazi soldiers marching through town to be quite chilling and menacing. I didn't like the men-with-guns ending to the film, either, and Much prefer the musical there. I found the men-with-guns totally out of step with the rest of the film and agree that it totally de-centres Maria in a very disconcerting way. I guess that the movie-makers thought they needed that kind of "action" to sell the film. I would never have thought of it as a feminist story, and it's certainly a product of its time with gender roles, but I did always get the impression that von Trapp and Maria worked as a team to take care of their family and needed each other's ideas and support to pull it off. I saw them as a team of equals, and didn't see Maria as becoming a kept or ineffective woman. Overall, I saw it as Maria herself saving the day, firstly through changing things in the family enough so that von Trapp had the options he had (singing, genuine self-belief, calmness) and secondly because I saw it as him needing a strong enough woman behind it to go through with it. Isn't there an exchange where Maria Totally covers and saves the day? Too, in the film, at least, the family found shelter with the nuns, which was Maria's connection and iirc her idea. I also understood "stuff got all serious because of the Nazis" rather than "stuff got all serious because of marriage". I think they're shown being really happy and "frivolous" with their singing performances and playing around as a family just before the Nazis arrived in town. I also read von Trapp as not having any real power once the Nazis arrived and needing Maria to deal with the situation. For me, that contrasted meaningfully with his apparent sort-of-fake earlier power over his family and children. I saw Maria as the force for change throughout the whole story, and that their happy experiences were dependent on her strength, tenacity and inventiveness. Of course that has problems of its own, with its clear woman-humanising-a-man implications, but pretty good for its time. Didn't want you to dislike it more than you have to It's far from perfect, but I didn't see it as that bleak.
Member # 96773
posted 10-27-2012 05:31 PM
Wow, Jacob, your interpretation of one of the major movies of my childhood is so different!
(my dad tried to raise me and my brothers similarly, except he was never that strict, so the lining up to the whistle thing never worked out- although we did do the whole singing in lots of harmonies and rounds, making marionettes & putting on elaborate puppet shows-and for one particular stretch, had matching old-curtain dungarees) When I was a kid, I loved this movie because I thought Maria was the epitome of a free, rules-don't-apply strong woman- which was all the more impressive considering the time period and place the story is happening in. Redskies, Maria as the "force for change" is a great way to put it. I am surprised you thought the movie was so anti-feminist, Jacob- I think it would have been FAR more anti-feminist if the Nazis were taking over and Maria was still spending her time skipping around in the fields. I think that's partially why the Baroness existed as a character, because you could see how shallow she was, and how she would have existed as a half of the Captain if anything had happened between them like she'd hoped- rather than her own full self added to his full self, like it was when he and Maria got together (I didn't think this needed to happen in marriage, when I was a kid, and still don't, but I guess it does fit in with the time period.) But anyway, yeah, the substance of singing merrily alone without a care thing, if in the 2nd half of the movie, seems like just a slightly wilder version of the scene where the Baroness is complaining to Max (in a serious and therefore obviously ridiculous way) that they never have any fun anymore. The way it is, the movie shows us Maria is a real, fully-fleshed out person, and the heroine of the story. I'm sure Redskies is right about Maria and the Captain worked as a team...but my memory barely registers him so much as it does Maria taking charge and leading her family to safety. I am honestly not sure how appropriate it would have been to explain and stress the Holocaust in this Disney children's movie...Target audience aside, this is a true story and at the time they were fleeing in the story, the family probably wasn't aware of the atrocities that had happened, and/or were to come. Unnecessarily injecting more Holocaust details would ring kind of false, don't you think? As a kid, I (along with many others probably- at least, I went to school in England, Ireland, and America, and all places stressed education about WWII more than anything else) found that the shadow WWII cast over the story was more effective, because coming from the movie's first half, being totally won over by the nuns, Maria, and the family, feeling giddy and happy, really identifying with the characters, and feeling like you know them because you've experienced lots of things similar to their life experiences at that point-- and then going to the Nazis coming? I thought that was SO effective at communicating how it could have felt being a threatened member of a family during that time, because the audience was ripped from the happy/giddy along with/in response to the family also going from peace to doubt and fear. With movies or other stories about WWII, you kind of know what you're going to get, to an extent, to the point where I think it's pretty easy to not immediately connect with the people you are reading about- it's like, oh, this is just history. You still understand it was horrific and sad, but it's disconnected from you. I think this movie does a very good job in breaking down that feeling of disconnection. I'm sure there are other movies about the Holocaust that also do that, but I don't watch anything with more than a very limited amount of violence, and I think this movie was very communicative particularly to children, because it speaks to fear on their level. So I actually think that rather than using "men with guns" to "sell" the movie, moving from a cute musical to a jarring, threatening ending was exactly what the movie needed to tell a true story that happened over that historical transition. It's a far less impressive story- and probably not one worth the movie- if it's just a bunch of kids taught to sing by a nanny with a stern dad and then they get married. [ 10-27-2012, 05:43 PM: Message edited by: Claire P. ]
Member # 41657
posted 10-28-2012 06:37 AM
It's not a Disney movie, it's 20th Century Fox, which isn't particularly surprising as Disney don't usually make very good live action films. I agree with the points raised in the second and third posts, I think, but it's a while since I've watched the movie, I'd like to see it again. Maria is pretty much the only nun I've ever seen in anything that didn't make me want to curl up in the foetal position and trigger me into crying with masturbation guilt, so she gets a thumbs up. She was genuinely nice and sweet and doesn't try and get the kids to believe in god or lay any kind of sexual guilt trips on them or anything, she just loves them to bits. She rocks.
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 10-28-2012 07:37 AM
Interesting stuff! And oh my, a lot of thoughts:
I guess that I appreciate the movie more for your descriptions of Maria in general! I'm glad other people felt that when watching the film/play as a whole! Perhaps it was just that I hadn't seen part 2 before that it was so jarring. So glad your memory doesn't register the captain, I think maybe the quality and strength of Julie Andrews performance actually, thankfully, leaves his leadership at those points overlooked. They do work as a team, but a very traditional one, where she takes care of internal familial affairs and restores balance to the motherless household by fulfilling that role that through sadness (but perhaps through being a man) he can't fulfil, by doing so she also supports his public role as the face of the family as made clear by how she backs him as his singing falters in the folk festival. But it is the 2nd half that affirms what his side of the bargain is, to protect the family, she supports him in doing that, but he'll walk towards someone holding a gun, he'll decide and defend the political stance of the family, he'll give the orders they need to win a direct confrontation with a military force, and they will follow because these are decisions of the world, not of the family. Ouch, it's depressing. It's interesting, by the way, that you think of the first half of the film as a way to personify the victims of fascism in europe, who experience a need to leave, I can kinda see that. In the universe of the film though, while the nazis are made out as the menacing bad-guys, what is attributed to them more than anything is their threat to Captain von Trapps idea of what Austrian national identity should be. That is what we're given to identify with, and we are led to believe in it through the music, the gorgeous countryside and the qualities of the social structure, folk dances and dinner parties that surrounds the singing children. The nazis are also rather bossy and threatening, but aside from that, the reason I think the film can't go further into what's so bad about them isn't that it'd be unsuitable for younger viewers... less graphic depictions of racial and religious discrimination could have been done... but rather that it would probably tar captain von trapp with the same brush, In my opinion deservedly so. Edelweiss is the song he sings to break through the nazi façade, it's not a song about religious tolerance, equality or whatever, it's about protecting the supposed sanctity and beauty of Austria, especially through the power of an emblematic national flower. I am familiar with this depiction of rolling green hills and parochial semi-aristocratic wholesomeness as the "before" of fascism in europe... and for me it is the impression I always was given. But really, though the real family did detest the Nazis, they did actually lose much of their wealth with the world wide depression of the early 30s like so many people did. Fascism in many countries criticised modern society called for a revival of an ideal traditional European past... yodelling and all! Even historically (after a bit of googling & wikipedia) it seems that Austria was already under fascist rule, a nationalistic Austrian fascist rule, but fascist none the less, it wasn't so antisemitic but dissent was not allowed, and those accused of being social democrats or communists (often jewish), and of course nazis or anyone else who didn't support the reigime, were thrown into concentration camps and prisons. Uniting Austria and Germany was a political movement before nazi-ism and was too a threat to austrofascism. So The elements of fascism represented (I thought only)symbolically and supported by the captain, in real life were actually a major part of the reigime we're asked to defend in the film. The most shocking thing for me about the 2nd World War, isn't that it was a terrible invasion of happy giddiness but that 'we' as proponents of happy giddiness around the globe were capable of producing such horror, at different extents for that period of time. Advancement in civilisation could in fact culminate in mass death and oppression rather than peace and democracy. One other (unfortunately cynical again) way to read the 2nd part of the film is that perhaps it needed to distance itself from the discredited nazi form of fascism in order to defend the risk of being accused of fascism, and rescue those ideals, by reframing them as the opposite of nazi-ism. I'm not sure what I would have seen Maria do, but I do think some sort of hill-skipping freedom is what we should aim for though!... In reality the family just left because their politics didn't really fit the climate, there was a risk they could be persecuted, the captain had Italian citizenship, so they jumped on a train to Italy, they didn't have to do it in secret or anything, or engage in a confrontation with the Nazis at all. That part is done for our benefit as viewers. I think it would have been strangely miraculous to have this film be the one I saw, which had almost no context but was somehow just a (rather) innocent fantasy, an interpersonal drama, essentially, and which was such a blockbuster. (By the by: I think on watching it again the baroness doesn't seem shallow, but I had that feeling too the first time round, because it is sort of normal in our society to feel hostile towards her simply because she's maria's rival... but I really thought she was a really well filled out person emotionally and had been really compatible with the captain but in a different context. I really like her as a character, she even feels a little hard done by, but that's another issue.) [ 10-28-2012, 09:24 AM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 10-28-2012 07:38 AM
(Can I just echoe the hoorays for maria)
Member # 79774
posted 10-28-2012 08:46 AM
It doesn't sit right that they made some less-threatened people's story more dramatic and endangered when there were so many people who were so much more threatened and so many real-life stories of that. It's like, huh, another example of the world glossing over the people who are truly most affected by something. I didn't know anything about the real-life story behind it.
Claire, I agree that the film needed and gained from the jarring ending, the element of real threat and danger. It's just that I didn't relate to how it was done in the film - I found it hard to take seriously and it seemed a bit ridiculous and war-gamey to me, rather than something real. The musical has the same jarring threat and danger, but it worked better for me. My memory's a bit hazy, but I think I found the Baroness to be a complex character while her outlook on the political developments is very shallow. It's a shame that it had to be a woman whose beliefs came off so shallow and selfish, while the men's outlook seemed a bit more anchored in some kind of political belief, even if that was wrong and simplistic.
Member # 96773
posted 10-28-2012 10:24 AM
Yes, the Von Trapps actually ended up in the States and used to live down the road from where I went to high school. Their grandchildren are still a touring same-named singing group, somehow...
Do you mean you actually saw the stage musical? That must have been so great. I've never seen it on stage, but most musical movies can never capture what the stage is, so I can totally believe the film would seem ridiculous after the stage version. The thing about making less-threatened people seem more dramatic and endangered...Was that actually the case? From what I've heard, the post-marriage musical/movie story is far closer to the real-life story than the first half (unfortunately, but I guess no one can really measure up to Julie Andrews). Unless you mean less endangered because their lives were threatened, but they didn't experience the atrocities of that, say, work camp victims went through? That seems a little too close to rating people's tragedies, for me- or experiences, even. I'd hate to think, say, that if something awful that defines our lifetimes/generations (arguably has already happened),our life stories and the issues we struggled with would be completely irrelevant to future people, to the point of it being insulting to be confronted with our stories, since something else hugely devastating occurred in the same time period we were alive that didn't have a tremendous influence on us. Obviously, the Holocaust is on a different level of hugely devastating, but I still think everyone's story has a chance of connecting with someone. And my impression of the Baroness could be off- I haven't seen the movie in several years. I do remember being especially annoyed as a child by how primped and casually condescending to Maria she was... but that could also have been kid-me projecting.
Member # 79774
posted 10-28-2012 11:38 AM
I've seen the stage musical over 20 times (remembered some more since earlier...), at least 2 different productions, although I've never been in the audience and never saw the songs. (I was working. Yes, awesome jobs, but boy did I earn my money.) That doesn't mean I know it any better than any of you, because when you're working, it's not like you're fully concentrating on the action! I think stage and film are very different mediums, and different cool things can be done with each; I just didn't personally like how that bit of the film was done.
I think I do indeed recall the Baroness being condescending to Maria. I don't think she's an entirely pleasant character, but I think she's fairly three-dimensional. I'm mostly with what Jacob says about the social and political situation, but this doesn't seem like quite the right venue to get further into the details of it, plus there's no need to repeat what someone's already said I wasn't meaning that stories like the von Trapps' shouldn't be told; but that from what Jacob said, their true-story flight wasn't that difficult or dramatic, and it seems a little uncomfortable to me that their story is dramatised and amped-up when there were so many other real-life stories of much more difficulty. I don't think I want to take issue with The Sound of Music just by itself, but it does seem to be part of an overall pattern where the people whose stories often become most famous, the ones most of us are supposed to and can empathise best with, are relatively better-off people. I don't think things would've been good for them, at all, and I think their story has a place too, but it seems a little off to me that this is the story that's become such a huge cultural thing, at least in the UK. It's like, we're being asked to feel empathy for Austrians whose lives were turned upside down and whose Austrian-ness was taken away - fair enough, but it does feel like there's a significant gap of a mention of "but what about people who were imprisoned and murdered?..." I think part of the problem is that your average of-the-era nationalistic Austrian - and the way the story is told in the show/film, too - wasn't that concerned for or aware of the people who were most likely to be imprisoned and murdered, so it makes the whole thing a bit... weird. The focus on the destruction of Austrian-ness and little or no mention of the destruction of people. It seems like a bit of perspective is missing. I guess I have a problem with people/groups/etc protecting national identity before protecting people, particularly when there's people in the nation who aren't really included in that national picture. It seems a bit like it comes across as "the ultimate escaping-the-Nazis story", and it just isn't. It's A story, and one that matters and has a right to be told, but it doesn't seem quite right that it seems to have such an ultimate cultural position. But then, it's entertainment, and where we draw the line between entertainment, awareness and truth (and what kind of truth?) is an entirely open question.
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 10-28-2012 12:00 PM
The baroness wasn't a saint for sure!
I was just reading this one: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps.html I think the whole story is changed a great deal to make the character arcs more dramatic (I don't have a problem with that actually)... i.e. according to that link the family was musical before maria turned up, she didn't fall in love with the captain but the nuns told her to marry because it was gods will and she loved the kids... That they decided to leave (to italy nay switzerland), rather un-dramatically, concerned that they might be persecuted by the ruling nazis but are depicted as having a direct confrontation is perhaps not as different as the first half changes. But I don't think I like it as much! The family created in the film is one I can accept for its flaws but to use them to represent the antithesis of nazi-ism I think is a defence of nationalism and macho patriarchy. Which is a depiction I really didn't need from a film, if that's one of the things the film is doing. I think on one level that is something that the film does... but I gather that it hasn't had much resonance, though, which rocks my world. And people don't seem to remember that side of the film as much as the frolicking in part 1, I have Julie Andrews to thank for that. I think, in line with hierarchies of suffering being a bad reason not to speak on things, that maybe these criticisms also come from a place that aims to highlight that while the austriofascist reigime was pretty horrible for plenty of people but not as bad as the third reich, and casual non-militant nationalism is pretty horrible, including now, for the people who suffer under it, but perhaps not in the same devistating way as it did in the 30s throughout europe militarised and at a socio-political breaking point in history, its worth saying. See! Sound of Music, worst thing EVER! Maybe not... but yeah, I recommend watching childhood films again there are so many problematic things hidden away, that if you can hang on to what you enjoyed about a film (for me I can easily say the first half of the sound of music), there is so much to learn there. (None of this is as bad as the explicitly anti-feminist polish film sexmission which my girlfriend thought was feminist and always calls her best film, until we rewatched it recently, not so great!) [ 10-28-2012, 12:20 PM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]
moonlight bouncing off water
Member # 44338
posted 10-29-2012 05:49 PM
Something I just thought of that might contribute to why you see the first half of the Sound of Music in a good light is because you only saw it as a child and so you know how it made you feel through the more innocent eyes of a child, but the second half you have only seen through your less innocent prism now.
Jacob at Scarleteen
Member # 66249
posted 10-30-2012 01:31 PM
That's very likely a big factor! (although I was no innocent! Sound of music was the joy of a satanchild mwahahahaha!)