Director: Robert Wise
I had a notion to re-watch this again last night. And I’m glad I did.
It’s not just the tunes that are brilliant. I had forgotten how well staged it all is. Massive, lush, widescreen exteriors make the most of the Austrian scenery. Creamy, rich interiors look like they’ve been painted in oil. The scene where timid Maria arrives at the Captain’s foreboding house, silence echoing around the marble entrance hall, reaches Hitchcock levels of suspense. It feels solid, a proper film you can relax into and feel you are in safe hands.
It also sidesteps the usual off-putting song-and-dance routines that are a key ingredient to most screen musicals. There’s absolutely no professional-looking dancing or synchronisation on show here. It all looks very natural (don’t laugh), maintaining a high-school level of choreography that lets the characters’ charisma and youthful exuberance shine through.
The story is the essence of finding genius in simplicity. A young woman finds her place in the world working as a governess for the children of a retired Captain, while the fingers of Nazi domination slowly tighten their grip in the background. There are no real surprises, but the dramatic arc is heart-warming in a genuine way and the gathering clouds of war are authentically sinister.
Maria is a homely character, refreshingly simple-minded and unquestioning in her religious mindset. Her search for identity and her stoic attitude mark her as a feminist icon by stealth. And I bet that blonde bob was a lot more influential than Julie Andrews is given credit for.
And… that voice! Perhaps matched only by Doris Day could match ol’ Julie for sheer projection and verve as a screen singer. From the breathy whisper of Something Good (the low-key masterpiece of the film) to the yankee-doodle warblings of I Have Confidence, she absolutely nails it every time.
And yes, those tunes. It goes without saying that Rodgers and Hammerstein excelled themselves here. I doubt you’ll find a more deliciously perfect group of melodies in the western canon outside of a Beatles LP. My Favourite Things is a tumbling cascade of glitter, exhilarating in its minor/major ambiguity. Do Re Mi slots its military-grade counterpoints together with clockwork precision. The surprise for me on this viewing was Climb Every Mountain, a rousing anthem which would give Gustav Holst chills and manages the rare feat of making a singing nun seem like a life guru.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Surely it appeals to everyone? I don’t really believe anyone who says they don’t like The Sound of Music. They just haven’t watched it yet.