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Celluloid: The hills are still alive with The Sound of Music

Celluloid: The hills are still alive with The Sound of Music
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Celluloid, The Hills Are Still Alive With The Sound Of Music. Unlike other big screen movies, which generally hold the characteristic of gradually...

Unlike other big screen movies, which generally hold the characteristic of gradually fading away with the time, ‘The Sound of Music’ chimes like a gentle bell ringing in pleasant memories of yesteryears. Today, after all these years, it still stands as a timeless classic.

The film has an unassuming plot that gently tapers down to a musical windfall, surprisingly culminating in an exhilarating escapade. But, how does this seemingly enrapturing movie unravel? The plot opens with Maria (Julie Andrews) an effervescent nun, melodiously rendering ‘The Hills Are Alive’ in the vast expanse of mountains of greenery. The nuns at monastery, guessing she’s going to be late again for the nth time, find humour in Maria’s childish actions as they musically ponder ‘How to solve the problem of Maria’. The song is powerful and hilarious, that in short summarises Maria’s personality.

It’s mother Abbess who asks Maria to find her true calling before she contemplates becoming a full-time nun. Subsequently, she is assigned the task of a governess for Captain George Von Tropp’s children (Christopher Plummer).Not the one who’s afraid of facing new challenges, Maria comes singing ‘I Have Confidence’ and dancing into the lives of the Von Tropp’s family members.

The Captain’s seven children, who are predominantly notorious for their mischief and for making many a governess run for her life, initially weave every conceivable plan to rid her off the palatial villa. But their wicked schemes fall to ground as Maria proves to be a tough, yet gentle governess who warms her way into the children’s hearts. Music to a great extent proves to be a potent and binding factor.

The Captain’s eldest daughter falls in love with the mail delivery boy. That’s when the euphonious number ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ takes place. After a brief meeting with the boy, she climbs through window into the villa only to meet Maria, who questions her whereabouts of the evening, but promises to keep her secrets provided she discloses everything to her as a child would in her mother.

The enchanting number ‘My Favourite Things’ is sung soon after terrifying thunder and lightning strike fear in the children’s hearts on a rainy night, and they all come scurrying into Maria’s room. The song is the starting of a beautiful relationship. Maria starts giving music lessons to these children, introducing the song ‘Do Re Mi’. The children take to singing as fish to water.

When the Captain returns from Vienna, bringing his fiancée Baroness Elsa Schraeder, a wealthy socialite and a common friend Max Detweiler, he finds his children inappropriately dressed and their behaviour like that of hooligans, he reprimands Maria and orders her to leave the place.

However, on hearing beautiful music, that emerges from the house, the captain rushes in to discover his children singing for the Baroness. He joins them in singing after many years. Knowing who’s truly behind this, he requests Maria to stay back. Later, Maria and children put on a Marionette show, which sees them delighting the Captain, Baroness and Max with a peculiar but haunting melody ‘The Lonely Goatherd’. When Max suggests that Captain’s children enroll in Salzburg Festival, the Captain outrightly denies it saying his children won’t sing in public. But promises to organise a grand party at the villa, as the party at the villa almost concludes, the children sing the melodious number ‘So Long, Farewell’.

At the behest of Maria, the captain sings ‘Edelweiss’. Baroness senses a rising affection between the two. Later, she suggests Maria that she return to the abbey. When Maria leaves the villa, the children sorely miss her. At the Abbey, Mother Abbess urges Maria to face life instead of running away from it. Maria returns only to discover that Captain is marrying the Baroness. But she promises to remain at the villa until a new governess is found.

But the quick succession of events see Captain professing his love for Maria and getting married to her. While the couple are away honeymooning, Max enrolls the children in the Salzburg Festival.

When the Captain finds out that Austria is annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss, the couple return home. On his arrival, he finds a Nazi flag boldly hanging atop his front door. Merely after angrily ripping it apart, he receives a telegram ordering him to report to German Naval Headquarters to accept an assignment with the German Navy. A man strongly opposed to Nazi regimen, the captain along with his family plans to leave Austria immediately. At night, when the family is making their escape, they are suddenly stopped by German soldiers. When questioned, the Captain explains he and his children are going to the Salzburg Festival to participate in the competition. The German soldiers insist on escorting the family to the festival and after which to escort the Captain to his new place of assignment with the German Navy.

At the Salzburg Festival, after their final performance, the Von Trapp family puts on a disappearing act and takes shelter in the nearby abbey. Mother Abbess aids them by hiding them. However, when the soldiers search the Abbey, they find that the family has escaped in the caretaker’s car. The German soldiers’ cars won’t start as they have been tampered with. Later, two nuns confess of removing certain ‘engine parts’ to Mother Abbess. Meanwhile, the Von Tropp family arrives at the border the following morning. From where the family crosses over the mountains on foot to Switzerland.

‘The Sound of Music’ received appreciation in the form of Academy Awards as well as Golden Globe Awards apart from many other awards. This delightful movie even after completion of 50 years still comes across as a breath of fresh air. The plot, the actors and actresses, the scenic locations…never fail to regale the audiences. The anniversary is the right ocassion to revisit this classic musical and relive the memorable scenes.

Daniel Indrupati

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