Five decades from the making of The Sound of Music, and the drama – or whatever genre you might be tempted to attribute to this production – is still top-ranking. It continues to top the bill, being a point of reference in the history of Hollywood musicals.
So, what is it about The Sound of Music that makes it undefeatable? Is it the quality of the act? The memorable soundtrack? The iconic locales? The endearing characters? I guess all these weigh in to make it a good – great even – movie. But let’s keep in mind this is not just an achievement of filmmaking industry. It is also a cherished production that hits close to the heart of first time viewers, not to mention of the nostalgic that were in their heydays when the movie was released.
In my opinion, there is this one quality that makes the difference: innocence. The sequence of memorable melodies the plot is dotted with is but a way of expressing the genuine backbone of the series of events. Singing is a privilege of the lighthearted, it is the province of the unworldly.
Maria is a hardheaded novice, always clumsy while performing her tasks of nun in the making. What does she do? She sings embarrassment away. Nuns see a different future for her. How do they announce it to Maria? They sing the news to her. Imagine your boss letting you go on whatever sol-fa. But it does work in the movie. Simply because the scene is conceived such as to highlight good intention and wholeheartedness.
Maria wins over the heart of the initially resilient Von Trapp children by singing and by teaching them how to sing. She seduces – a strong word, perhaps, but effective – the rough Captain, head of the family, with her way of ending everything, of course, on a high note, getting away, to her advantage even.
The outrageous episode of dressing up the children in clothes made of curtains is iconic. Her singing is a way of bringing joy, pure love of simple things and unsophistication to the life of this close-knit yet tensed family.
Eventually, they all escape the Nazis by staging a musical show. Because, as I see the moral of The Sound of Music, innocence does not only rid you off of personal embarrassment; it is also the way out of life-threatening situations. They all deserved, anyway, a chance to head for their happy ending.