The Sound of Music


So the institution known as the classic movie review is quickly becoming a place for me to have a whinge about those older films that everyone knows and loves. I did it with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and to a lesser extent with The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro), and now I’m going to do it to The Sound of Music, a favourite of Mark’s.

The Sound of MusicNow that I’ve finally watched all 168 minutes of The Sound of Music what can I say? Well, I’m older, that’s for sure. 168 minutes older. And I’m not entirely sure that I’ve learnt or achieved much in that time. Why is it that all the ‘classics’ are so damn long? I recently purchased ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’, and whilst I’ve seen 340 or so of them, it seems that the majority of the 660 remaining are over two hours. This bothers me. I’ve maintained (quite vocally) for a long time that 100 minutes is the perfect running time for a film. Many of my favourite films are around that length, and I don’t see why every filmmaker shouldn’t aspire to this wonderfully round number. The entire Lord of the Rings could have been done in 100 minutes thusly: little people-ring-evil flaming vagina-giant elephants-volcano-the end. (Note I only had ONE ending?)

Okay so maybe that isn’t very realistic, and to be honest I was behind The Fellowship of the Ring 100 percent, but the fact remains The Sound of Music was way too long. The repetition of songs probably had something to do with it, as leitmotifs very quickly turned into that annoying mosquito that won’t leave you alone at night. I do appreciate the significance of the repeat performances: as ‘Edelweiss’ turns from love song to requiem for a country under occupation, and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from finding one’s path to the determination of the Austrian people to survive. It’s brilliantly conceived and constructed, there’s no doubt about that. But I worked once in the stage crew for ‘Oklahoma!’ (yep, that was me opening and closing the curtains in Act Two), and I could have sworn there wasn’t quite so much repetition.

The Sound of MusicApparently this is a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. Not that you’d notice this from the opening credits, which state that it’s ‘a Robert Wise production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music’, with ‘music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, additional words and music by Richard Rodgers, from the stage musical with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’. Geez, those guys got robbed. Where’s the recognition?! They should have taken their grievances to the guild.

Whilst I had never seen the movie in its entirety, I had seen most of the musical numbers. It turns out that the bits holding the songs together are rather tedious to be honest. It probably doesn’t help that Herr Von Trapp has let the colour drain from the house, his children and his life since his wife passed, but all the same there wasn’t much to attract my eye. The camerawork is disappointingly static most of the time, not including that famous aerial zoom in on Julie Andrews at the beginning, and the choreographed bicycle dance, which was very impressive. Unfortunately, during the former all I could think of was Chevy Chase bellowing ‘the hills are alive with the sound of Griswold!’, and during the latter how they should all really be wearing bike helmets.

I was actually quite thankful for the hooded top I purchased prior to watching The Sound of Music, as it meant I had something else to do whilst the film was running. You see the stupid thing had random bits of red camouflage material stitched on it, so I sat there with the quikunpik and took them off one by one. And you know what? I didn’t even finish by the time the credits rolled, so either the film wasn’t nearly as long as I’ve been suggesting, or I really shouldn’t have bought a jumper that involved so much manual labour.

The Sound of MusicThe performances in The Sound of Music are fantastic of course, even if they feature a little too much ‘stage-acting’ for my liking. Julie Andrews was immortalised in the role of Maria, and she’s not even dead yet, so that ain’t half bad. Plus Maria has some mad freestylin’ skillz, since she apparently constructs a song to help the kids remember the notes of the scale off the top of her head. I’d like to see Rabbit from 8 Mile go head to head with her. I didn’t even recognise Christopher Plummer, so used am I to seeing him with grey hair, and he’s quite charming – kind of a quarter of Mr Darcy, insofar as he warms up a lot quicker.

Much as I am disrespecting the memory of the filmmakers and those millions who love(d) the film worldwide, I really can’t imagine that this is the ‘timeless classic every family should share’, as suggested on the DVD cover. I had considered watching this with my younger sisters, though I’m glad I didn’t, as at least one of them would have disappeared after twenty minutes to watch the latest Hillary Duff film. And before anyone suggests it, my complaints aren’t merely ‘typical of the MTV generation’. I can sit through slower paced films, and I do have patience (you’ll notice The Conversation is in my top ten), but The Sound of Music was overkill. It could have been much shorter, and also could have made better use of the medium. Too often it felt as if a stage production was being filmed, rather than an awe-inspiring piece of cinema, which is what the tale deserved.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 9th February 2006
Hoopla Factor: 1.5 stars

The Aristocrats Jarhead