This is one those childhood norms I had, for which I can only repay my parents with the words “thank you.” If you grew up with The Sound of Music like I did, then that makes us family! Of course, we all love what makes us nostalgic right? However, there is something rather special about this film that surpasses all the familiarity.
Of course, I don’t have to tell you the story of the REAL Von Trapp family. There are many details in the film that don’t coincide with the details of their history, however I believe the film captures the spirit of this dynamic and phenomenal family.
Let’s first address that the live musical is NOTHING like the film. The stage musical, before the film itself, was notoriously disliked and many in Hollywood were sending flowers to anyone involved with it because doing so would be the death of their careers. Even Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were concerned that the film would turn out like the live musical…”cheesy.” But because of their commitment to making this an honest and beautiful film, it worked, and probably more than they were anticipating.
Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why so many people love this film. Besides the unforgettable songs and the beautiful scenery of Salzburg, something attracted a multi-cultural and multi-generational audience. Of course, this is right on the cusp of WWII. Anyone with a minute amount of knowledge about that war knows what a tragic and horrific event it was. There is a great deal of beauty and innocence still in Austria and that’s all about to be interrupted by the horrors of war. But this story doesn’t go in THAT direction. I like how Maria’s impulse to sing comes from somewhere deep inside her as if she can’t even help it. It makes me think of Psalm 60:12 “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” And also Psalm 104:33 “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” There is a strength given to these people that outweighs the brutish strength of this world.
What is so relate-able about The Sound of Music are the different life events and turn of events that happen during a time of a brewing war. It just goes to show that life keeps going on despite the chaos around us. Maria discovers that a destiny as a wife and mother can be holy too and it is apparently what God wanted for her rather than being a nun. Liesl discovers at sweet 16 that the boy she’s fallen in love with, thinks very differently from her. The Captain rediscovers the tender love he had for his children prior to their mother’s death. What resonates in this film, is that the best treasures in this world are love, marriage, children and family.
Isn’t it profound how the joyful wedding bells for Maria and the Captain give way to the ominous bells announcing war? If marriage and family are the best gifts in this world, then war and destruction are the worst calamities. The enemy opposes marriage and families and war is his greatest tool to break them apart. War is evil. What he hasn’t figured out though is that this family is well equipped. Maria has a supernatural gift of life and joy that comforts her family and the Captain a bravery and termination to lead his family to freedom and prosperity.
Even though I studied theatre and performed in live musicals, AND enjoyed them for the most part, I was never really moved by them. So many of my friends and family break down crying when listening to Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Rent, Beauty and the Beast, Fiddler on the Roof, Moulin Rouge, Carousel…and here I am listening with the same amount of emotion as if listening to a lecture on economics. It’s shocking I know, and I feel inhumane for not being moved by these musicals and their corresponding films to the point of thinking there’s something wrong with me. However, there is one song and one scene from The Sound of Music that gets me every time. When Captain Von Trapp sings to his children the song Edelweiss, I find that it gets harder to hold back the tears as I get older. A father is burdened with the grief of seeing his homeland falling apart, on the brink of war and agonizes what part he will have to play in it.
However, in this moment, he chooses to be strong for his children and sings a song for them about their innocence and the hope of their future. From the moment he reluctantly takes the guitar to his sheepish chuckle at the end of the song, there’s no dancing, flashing lights or changing scenery…just a guitar, the unspoken but growing understanding between he and Maria, and his children’s adoring faces. It is the most beautiful and real scene out of any musical I’ve ever watched.
And it becomes all the more poignant when he nearly breaks down at the music festival, just minutes before they make their escape. But what reassures him is the love and trust of his wife and children who know he will lead them to a place of safety. That is what a family does, no matter what is going on in the world. A father leads, a mother infuses life, they TRUST in the Lord, and they stop at nothing to protect the lives and innocence of their children. That is the power of a joyful family like the Von Trapps. We all might laugh at THOSE types of families we deem to be “goody-goody” and who take great pleasure in each other’s company, but the truth is, we’re all secretly envious of them. With a horrible event that ruined so many families, this family was stronger than the war and no other WWII movie ends in such triumph. And I’m so grateful for it. We can all try to prevent wars, but a better tactic would be to pray for all families to withstand anything together like this one.