Americanized Heimatfilm Dripping With Cheese
Aww, You Shouldn’t Have
Last Saturday at the Eurovision Song Contest we learned that The Sound of Music is a well-known movie world-wide, except for Austria. Reason enough to look into this. This may be one of my more painful self-experiments…
Since I did not grow up with this movie, I am lacking the attachment that comes from nostalgia. The Sound of Music is set in 1938 and is based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp. This film may not reflect the memoirs 100% truthfully. The Sound of Music, also famous on Broadway, comes along dressed as a Heimatfilm; a sentimental, well-known after-war format that was popular in German-speaking countries from the 1940s well into the 60s and 70s.
So Maria (Julie Andrews) is studying to become a nun in Salzburg. Due to her free-spirited nature and her lack of discipline she is not very good nun material and seems torn between her calling and her passion for music. Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) is convinced her protégéé would be happier outside the walls of the abbey, so Maria is transferred to the house of naval Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). The wealthy widower is disconnected from his seven children and raises them in true military manner. While von Trapp is away, Maria wins their trust, gets them out of the house and teaches them to sing.
On his return, von Trapp brings back it-girl Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Eleanor Parker) and is not amused about his children acting like children. The Baroness quickly picks up on the chemistry between Maria and Georg and tries to hide her jealousy as best as she can. Maria is more and more confused about her feelings for the Captain and seeks refuge in the abbey. The children, who just found some happiness in life again, refuse to sing without Maria…
Will von Trapp break his engagement with Elsa?
Will von Trapp propose to Maria?
Can they flee from the Nazis?
It Just Does Not Stop
Just when everything is fine, the fleeing the country bit unfolds and you really wish for it all to be over. Endless meadows, mountains and music are part of the Heimatfilm and in a bigger, better, faster, more tradition Hollywood went so over the top that it is hard to actually enjoy this. I do not mean to offend anyone here. The Sound of Music won 5 Oscars, 2 Golden Globes, a whole bunch of other awards and is one of the highest grossing movies of all times. Without “Favorite Things” Dancer in the Dark would have only been half as sad… It was the first American movie that got dubbed completely (sound and music) into German, French, Italian and Spanish. While the romantic nonsense warmed hearts all over the world, it left German-speaking countries as cold as ice blocks.
If you (did not) like it, check out the original film version The Trapp Family in America [Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika], staring Maria Holst and Hans Holt. An Alpine delight filled with traditional folk songs.
The horrors of the Nazi regime need to be recalled so following generations can learn from it and whatever works is justified. Moreover, it is a reminder that kids need to be kids. A lesson very valid in today’s’ parenting world.
Why we love it: it is oozing and dripping with slime; if this is not kitsch than I don’t know what is.
Recommended for: a nice afternoon with granny and anyone who really enjoys a colorful film.