Special: 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music”

Pôster - the sound of music

In 2008 I was applying for an internship at a law firm and, as part of the application process, I had to answer a questionnaire with approximately 60 questions about a wide range of subjects: from “what do you think about competition in the work environment?” to “what do you do in your free time?”. One of the questions was “what is your favorite movie?” and I answered, without having to think at all, “The Sound of Music (1965)”.

The second part of the application process was to be interviewed by a partner of the law firm responsible for hiring new interns. He had my questionnaire in front of him and asked me follow-up questions on a few points. One of his questions was “Why did you put ‘The Sound of Music’ as a favorite film? How can someone so young like a movie so old?”. I was a little surprised by the phrasing of the question, so I didn’t have a great answer to it. Besides, I couldn’t possibly answer that with just a few sentences. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing this right now.

The other reason is the 50th anniversary of the movie! Released in 1965, “The Sound of Music” soon became the highest gross musical of all times and is still the third highest gross movie in the U.S., with the ticket price adjusted for inflation, behind “Gone with the wind” and “Star Wars: Episode IV”. It also won 5 Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Picture.

It is still very present in the American culture, being referenced in many ways. The beginning of a song called “I believe,” from the Broadway musical “The book of Mormons,” clearly is inspired by “I have confidence”. The TV show “Will and Grace” once made an episode entirely dedicated to the movie, where the characters would go together to a sing-a-long. The very first scene of the movie, with Julie Andrews running and spinning in the hills, has also been copied several times. Not to mention “My favorite things”, which has become a Holiday song and it’s played every year around Christmas.

Directed by Robert Wise and based on a Broadway musical with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (which was based on a real story), “The Sound of Music” tells the story of a postulant who is failing to fit in the convent. The mother abbess of the convent, then, decides to send Maria (Julie Andrews) to help a widower navy captain as a governess for his seven children (for some mysterious reason, no one was able to keep the job for very long).

Maria accepts the challenge and meets Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and his children and realizes that he runs his house as if it were a ship (every one in the house answers to his whistle, not by their names). The children wear uniforms and are not allowed to play, sing or do anything fun. Maria finds out that the children are miserable and that they have plotted the dismissal of the previous governess. So, when the captain is away on a trip, she decides to break the rules and brings music into the children’s lives (and, eventually, into the Captain’s life too).

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this movie. My first recollection of watching it was when I was so little I couldn’t even read the subtitles. So either my aunt or my grandmother would explain the scenes to me and I would borrow the VHS (double set) later and rewind it to my favorite parts (yes, the movie is almost 3 hours long, so it didn’t fit in one VHS, for those of you out there who remember what it is…). I would try to copy the choreographies of “Sixteen going on Seventeen” and “So long, farewell”; I would admire the wedding scene; I would hold my breath every time I saw the scene when the family is hiding from the Nazis… (even though I didn’t fully understand why they were hiding at the time – as I said, I was really young); I would watch the Captain sing Edelweiss over and over again (even though it’s not really Christopher Plummer’s voice); etc.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love this movie so much. It brings only good memories and I feel good every time I watch it again. Another reason is, of course, the music. I don’t think there is one song in this movie I don’t like. They have all been taking turns in being my favorite song of the movie thorough my life (right now, my favorite is “Climb every mountain”). Also, there is the story per se. It’s a beautiful journey of a young woman who clearly has made the wrong choice for her life, considering her characteristics (to become a nun), and was given a second chance to change her destiny. It’s also a romance and a family story and, was I mentioned before, it is based on a real story. So there really was a Maria (she even makes a cameo on the background during “I have confidence”).

The final reason has to be Julie Andrews. I already loved Mary Poppins when I was convinced by my family to watch this film. So watching her singing new songs was just an easy argument to persuade me. Needless to say that I’ve become a huge fan of hers ever since and I’m one of those who are sad that she can’t sing like that anymore due to a medical malpractice during a throat surgery.

So, basically, this is how I feel about this movie and I couldn’t let the 50th pass by without saying anything. There was even a tribute at the Academy Awards by Lady Gaga (she said that she had to practice for six months to reach those higher notes) and a special tribute that aired last week on ABC. I am completely biased, but I think everyone should see this movie at least once, even those who don’t like musicals.

One final note: as I was raised in Brazil, it took me years to realize that the title in English was “The sound of music”. In Portuguese it’s something like “The rebel novice” or “The rebel postulant” (I don’t know which word fits better – it’s for someone who is not a nun yet). Ah, those translations…. (but that’s a topic for another discussion).

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