When the story was pitched by the studio to the first director, he refused to make it because it was too saccharin (eventually, after it changed hands a couple of times, the film ended up made by the same first director). But is The Sound of Music too sugary for one’s tastes?
In a way, and looking at the film from a single perspective, it is, since it is a musical that tells a love story between a widower and a governess. From this particular point of view, besides the songs and the romance, there is nothing else – The Sound of Music could have been placed on the same shelf with movies such as You’ve Got Mail, or even worse.
However, this is just one of the stories depicted in the film, it actually having also an anti-war statement.
The first perspective, as said, is the one concerning the romance between Maria and the Captain, a perspective which is obvious from the first moments of the film. We, as viewers, know from the start that they will end up together. We don’t know how and we don’t know what will happen afterwards, but this is a given.
In the same way, as The Sound of Music unfolds, it becomes more and more obvious that these two characters also know where they are heading. But, just like us, they don’t know what lies ahead.
And what lies ahead is the second perspective from which The Sound of Music can be seen, the one mentioned above: the anti-war statement (or propaganda, as it is also called). It is the story of how the Nazis overtake Austria. And this isn’t just that objective story, but one which is intertwined with the previous one.
It doesn’t start when the romance ends, but during the romance, thus one becoming essential for the other (in the context of this movie). So, upon watching the film the audience invests much more in the characters because they seem invested with more reality because of the historical context (we are not taking into account the fact that the von Trapp family actually existed – speaking about this film only, they are just fictional characters).
So, in a way, the fall of Austria is the defeat of the Captain, one of the main characters. But, because he eventually wins from another perspective and has a happy-ending (crossing the border towards Switzerland with his newlywed wife and his children), the story becomes much more: it leaves the door open for us to assume that all ends well.
We don’t see in the film that the Nazis are defeated, but we can presume that (again, in the context of this film).
In this way, The Sound of Music isn’t just a romantic story, just like it isn’t just anti-war propaganda. It is both and this, if I may say so, makes it multi-flavored.