The Sound of Music (1965)

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I have a confession to make – until two days ago, I had never seen The Sound of Music. It wasn’t that I was opposed to seeing it – by all means, I did have every intention of seeing it. How can one not want to see one of the most iconic films in cinematic history? The problem was that The Sound of Music is so popular and well-known, I always brushed it aside, thinking there would be another opportunity to watch it in the future – and for many, many years it was the same cycle. I would consider watching it, but rather choose something more obscure or less-acclaimed, just to be different. However, I finally (after being playfully forced to do so) took the plunge and watched it. The final verdict is that there is a reason why this film is so beloved and has stood the test of time – it truly is something extraordinary and unique.

As far as I am concerned, Julie Andrews can do absolutely nothing wrong – she is truly the epitome of brilliance condensed into a human form. She is utterly perfect in everything, and I will personally fight to the death with anyone who dares to disagree with the fact that she is an icon. Of course, her most iconic role must be that of the titular nanny in Mary Poppins, but I do think her best performance is easily in The Sound of Music. With this performance, Andrews joins a very elite and select group of performances that are entirely perfect – endearing, likable and so brilliant, they become historical. Andrews has never been better, and when you consider that she is almost perfect in everything she does, to call this her best performance is very special. The Sound of Music serves as a nearly-three hour showcase for exactly why Andrews is one of the greatest actresses to ever live – it shows her incredible acting talent, her impeccable ability to sing and her flawless comedic timing that have made her one of the most effortlessly likable actresses to ever work. This all sounds hyperbolic, but I cannot really think of an actress more brilliant than Andrews in this kind of work – and she is certainly an icon. I definitely think that while she is beyond beloved, we should still appreciate her, because we don’t have many bona fide legends still living today, and if someone qualifies for the status of legend, it is Andrews.

I could easily harp on and on about Julie Andrews here. I could probably write an entire doctoral thesis on why she is brilliant. It is undeniable that The Sound of Music is all about Andrews – it is the role that made her a household name, it is the role that made her one of the most wonderful actresses of her generation, and it is the role that allowed the breakthrough of so many actresses in subsequent films – but The Sound of Music is also so much more than just being about Andrews. For one, it features another actor who is one of the most talented of his generation, and one we are lucky enough to still have with us – Christopher Plummer. It is not a bad thing that the majority of why The Sound of Music is so loved to this day is because of Andrews, but I found Plummer to be equally as good as Andrews. Playing the persnickety and hardened Captain Georg Von Trapp, Plummer is complex and interesting, yet still very endearing. While Andrew’s Maria is pretty much the same sweet and lovely character throughout, Plummer’s Von Trapp goes through a considerable transformation throughout the film. It is almost impossible to imagine The Sound of Music without Julie Andrews’ iconic performance, but I would argue that the same can be said for Plummer, who is as equally important to this film as Andrews. I am well-aware that Plummer didn’t enjoy making The Sound of Music – and I suspect it is because it is his most well-known role, as opposed to his more serious work. I think Plummer is an extraordinary actor, and while he has been magnificent in so many films, I do think his performance in The Sound of Music is not one that he should revile if that is what he is remembered for – it is a complex, layered and wonderful performance, and any actor would be grateful to have such a historical film on their filmography. He was great in it, and that is more than enough.

Now I hate to be that person that finds fault in something wonderful – and The Sound of Music is almost completely perfect. However, there always has to be something that prevents a film from being completely perfect – and in The Sound of Music, I did manage to find one small problem, and I feel slightly despicable for pointing it out, because I really would hate to be that person who has to find a problem in this brilliant film. The problem is the children. Now this isn’t to say that they are bad – in fact, as a collective, they are wonderful and as brilliant as the rest of the cast. None of the children give anything less than a wonderful performance – my problem is that they were not developed quite as much as I would have liked. They are very important characters, and I understand that there are seven of them – yet only Charmian Carr (who is brilliant as Liesl) is given anything interesting to do. The other children seem to be shoved to the back far too often, and despite giving great performances in their small moments, I found myself longing for a little more from each of them. This is only a minor issue – but it is the only issue that is keeping The Sound of Music from being completely perfect. If each of the children had been given just one small moment each, devoted to developing them and connecting the audience with them as individuals, not just as a group, that would have pushed this film into the region of being utterly perfect. I understand that The Sound of Music is nearly three-hours long, and I am someone who criticizes overly long films – but I would not have minded an extra twenty minutes or so added to this film to help make the children more individual. I feel like there would have been room for it as well in the story, as Maria, near the middle of the film, confronts Captain Von Trapp and tells him how his children are detached from him – yet this scene feels awfully out of place, because we never actually see the reason or result for Maria’s outburst. I wish we had, because that would have just made The Sound of Music perfect. However, this is a small complaint, and pretty much the only flaw with The Sound of Music.

I have alluded to it before, but The Sound of Music is also a very long film – running at just under three hours, it does seem like a daunting task – yet those three hours absolutely fly by. This just proves that the pace of a film makes all the difference – the snappy and energetic pace of the film, combined with the brilliant filmmaking, make this film seem very short. This goes to show that Robert Wise was truly a force of cinema – he is a director that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his diverse skills as a filmmaker. Hardly anyone makes films like Wise, and almost every one of his movies are absolute masterpieces. I wouldn’t argue that The Sound of Music is his best film (but it could be), but rather that it is simply another bright spot in his diverse filmography. He was simply extraordinary, and strangely unheralded, considering how many amazing films he made.

I could go on and on and on. I am sure this won’t be the last time I speak about The Sound of Music. This review wasn’t to sway anyone to watch the film, because I feel there are two kinds of people in the world – those that have watched and loved The Sound of Music, and those that are still going to watch it. Going from the latter to the former was one of the most wonderful experiences of my cinematic life, and I think that the criticisms towards this film, such as it being too sentimental, are actually The Sound of Music‘s greatest strengths, because this kind of sweet and endearing film isn’t made very often, and it will instantly brighten up anyone’s day. I would go so far as to categorize The Sound of Music as one of the few true masterpieces of cinema, and would rank it very highly in a list of the greatest films of all time. If you haven’t seen The Sound of Music yet, then I am not entirely sure what you are waiting for. It is a film that might very well change your life, and even if it doesn’t, it will put you into a great mood that will last for quite a while. Truly an amazing film.

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