The Sound of Music is out in a gorgeous new 45th anniversary edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo. The beloved family musical is the fictionalized story of Maria von Trapp (Julie Andrews). It is an outstanding family film, filled with glorious music (“Do Re Me,” “My Favorite Things,” “Eidelweiss,” So Long, Farewell”), a real-life love story right out of Jane Eyre, a courageous moral choice, and a heart-stopping escape.
As a postulant, Maria is “not a credit to the Abbey.” While she means well, she is constantly in trouble. The wise Mother Abbess sends her away to be the governess for the seven children of a stern widower, Captain von Trapp. Obedient to their disciplinarian father, the children are uncooperative with Maria until she wins them over with her own high spirits, as well as her kindness. She also shares her love of music, and her joy in the beauty around them, and they become devoted to each other.
The Captain’s friend Max (Richard Hadyn) hears the children sing, and wants them to perform at the local festival. But the Captain refuses, thinking it is foolish and inappropriate. Meanwhile, the Captain is considering marriage to a titled and wealthy woman, and his oldest daughter, Leisel, is beginning a romance with Rolfe. And as the Nazis threaten control of Austria, the Captain knows that his military skill and experience will lead them to him. He knows that they will ask him to join them, and that they will not accept a negative answer.
Maria, realizing that she has fallen in love with the Captain, runs back to the Abbey. But the Mother Abbess counsels her to follow her heart, and she returns to the children. The Captain realizes that he loves Maria, and they are married in the Abbey. They return from their honeymoon to find that an invitation to join the Nazi navy is waiting.
Max has put the children on the festival program, hoping the Captain would relent. He forbids them to participate and makes plans to escape. But when the Nazis arrive to stop him, he explains that they are just on their way to perform at the festival. The Nazis escort them to the festival, where they win first prize, and use their encore number to camouflage their escape. On their way out of Austria, they are betrayed by Rolfe, now a Nazi, but protected by the nuns in the Abbey, and they leave for Switzerland, over Maria’s beloved mountains.
Discussion: A number of people in this movie must make important choices when they face challenges that are completely unexpected. Maria and the Captain both thought they had established what their lives would be like. Maria planned to be a nun, and to live in the Abbey all her life. The Captain expected to continue with the life he had, a loving but stern father to his children and a respected aristocrat and military leader. His family had always lived in Austria, and he expected his children and grandchildren would live there, too. Maria’s unexpected challenge comes from within herself. She is lucky to have the wise Mother Abbess to help her examine her heart to learn that she is better suited for a life outside the Abbey.
The Captain is used to being in control. It may be that his regimental approach to the children is as much prompted by a need to feel in greater control following the loss of his wife as it is by his military training. His original inclination to marry the Baroness seems to be led by his head rather than his heart; it feels more like an alliance than a romance. But he finds that he cannot resist Maria’s warm and loving heart.
Just as all of this is happening, every aspect of the life they had known in Austria is challenged by the Nazis. Unlike his friends, the Captain does not have the option of making a slight accommodation to the Nazis. He must fight for them, if he wants to keep his home. He gives up every material possession he has to get away, preserving freedom for himself and his family.
Everyone in Austria has to make a choice when the Nazis arrive. Rolfe becomes so committed to the Nazis that he is willing to betray the young woman he cared for. Even the nuns in the Abbey must make a choice. They decide to protect the Von Trapps and impede the Nazis, risking their own freedom. Children, especially young children, will need some background to understand what these choices involved and what the risks were. It is also worthwhile to discuss with them the sweet song that the Captain sings to Maria, telling her that he must have done something good in his past to deserve her love and the happiness she has given him.
Questions for Kids:
· Why does Maria have a problem fitting in at the Abbey?
· What does the Captain learn from Maria?
· The same people wrote the song about “My Favorite Things” and “Whistle a Happy Tune” in “The King and I.” How are they alike? (Think about when it is that Maria sings the song.) If you were going to write the song, what would be on your list of favorite things?
· What is the difference between the way the Captain, Max, and Rolfe react to the Nazis?
· What does the song, “Climb Every Mountain” mean?
Connections: Sister Sophia is played by Marni Nixon, a rare onscreen appearance by the off-screen singing voice from “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story” and “The King and I.”
Activities: Kids who enjoy this movie can read more about the real-life family in one of the books written by Maria von Trapp, and can visit the Trapp family’s lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Find Austria, Germany, and Switzerland on a map but do not try to trace the family’s escape route. If they had climbed over the mountains they took in the movie, they would have ended up in Germany.