Music, hills, lakes, a beautiful house and seven children who are musically inclined. A perfect setting for a movie that can never be forgotten.
The hills are alive with the sound of music,
With songs they have sung for a thousand years,
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music,
My heart wants to sing every song it hears...
The opening lines of the song The Sound of Music from the movie of the same name. The lovely Julie Andrews is seen romancing the hills, running in the green meadows and jumping over streams, and it is a delightful sight. Setting aside the fact that the story is based on the real life incidents of the von Trapp family and their ordeal while fleeing Austria before World War II, The Sound of Music (also made into a Broadway musical in 1959) is the sugar-coated version of the memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949) written by Maria (Julie Andrews’ character).
A timeless classic, the movie begins with a carefree Maria, singing (‘The Sound of Music’) and dancing on a hill. The older nuns at the convent are worried about her aloofness (‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’) and it is suggested that she be sent away as governess to the von Trapp children.
Captain Georg von Trapp is a strict father and his approach with the children is militaristic, which Maria disapproves. After the initial hostile attitude toward Maria, the children — Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl — get acquainted with her. They realise that she is fun and affable unlike their previous governesses. ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and ‘My Favourite Things’ are two great songs that make you want to jump up and prance around.
After the Captain leaves for Vienna, Maria teaches the children to sing with ‘Do-Re-Mi’ as the key. Perhaps the most popular in the movie, this song is fun and easy, and helps you learn the basic notes in music. The Austrian landscapes pictured in the song are marvellous and a sight to behold.
The Captain returns with Baroness Elsa Schrader, to whom he is engaged, and is furious about Maria’s lack of discipline and asks her to leave. But the children, with their version of the song ‘The Sound of Music’, impress everyone and Maria is asked to stay. ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ has Maria and the children putting on an entertaining puppet show for the Baroness and Captain.
Throughout the movie, there are subtle references to the impending Nazi occupation of Austria and the Captain pledging his loyalty to his country. Soon Maria and the Captain realise that they love each other and eventually get married. The Captain is asked to pledge allegiance to Hitler’s Germany, but unable to compromise on their principles, they decide to escape. After the Salzburg Music Festival, where they perform ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’, and ‘So Long, Farewell’, the family is seen escaping to Switzerland over the Alps as the movie ends.
One of the most popular musicals of all time, with its wonderful songs and brilliant performances, the film has a special place for people who grew up watching it, and continues to capture hearts — that’s the magic of The Sound of Music.
Who are the Trapp Family Singers?
We must go back in time, to the mid-1920s, and follow their story. Georg Ludwig von Trapp, a widower and former naval captain, lived with his seven children in Salzburg, Austria. Maria Augusta Kutschera, a nun, was sent to tutor the children. Maria soon grew close to them and later accepted Captain von Trapp’s proposal for marriage. The musical talent in the family was remarkable as all the children learnt to play instruments including piano, guitar, violin and accordion among others. They would sing as a group and tour Europe and later, America. In 1938, when Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany, the von Trapps decided to flee to America rather than accept the new regime.
It is the story of the von Trapps that has been immortalised in the Broadway musical and film.
The music went silent
Maria Agatha Franzisca Gobertina von Trapp, the last surviving member of the original Trapp Family Singers, died on February 18 this year. She was 99 years old. In the movie, she was portrayed as Loiusa. She was the third child born to Captain von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp.
Real and reel life
The movie, though based on real life incidents, has many inaccuracies, perhaps made for dramatic purposes. Here are some of them: In the movie, the events take place in 1938. However, Maria Kutschera came to serve the von Trapp family in the mid-1920s. The von Trapps did not escape on foot over the Alps as shown at the end. They had caught the train, during the day, to Italy, from where they went to London and then, America.
Maria Kutschera wasn’t appointed as the children’s governess. In fact, she was called to tutor little Maria von Trapp, who had scarlet fever and could not go to school.
Captain von Trapp wasn’t the strict disciplinarian portrayed by Christopher Plummer. He was gentle and caring, and never restrained the children from pursuing music.