Film Studies: “The Sound of Music” by Robert Wise

“The hills are alive with the sound of music”– this eternal line from the song with which the movie begins echoes through our imagination as we speak of Europe or Salzburg (The Sound of Music). Lush green countryside with snowcapped mountains in the background is a nature lovers’ paradise. The movie reviewed in this essay is 1965 classic musical, The Sound of Music. The movie is set in Salzburg, Austria. The essay will discuss the film and the locational geography shown in the movie. The essay will then discuss if the geography shown in the movie is similar to the real geography of the area.

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The story of The Sound of Music is about a young nun, Maria, who is vivacious and full of life. Maria is sent by the abbess to become the governess of seven children of an Austrian naval captain, Captain Georg von Trapp (The Sound of Music). The movie is about the liberation of the children from their father’s strict regime and their growing love for Maria. On the other hand, Maria and the captain fall in love and are eventually married. The film is based on the political backdrop of the spread of Nazism in Europe. Essentially, the movie shows the escape of the von Trapp family from the Nazi atrocity.

The movie is shot in Salzburg, Austria (Andrews and Plummer). It was actually shot in Salzburg, and many of the castles and places are shown in the movie can still be found in the city of Salzburg. The film characterizes Europe as a beautiful place – lush green surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The castle is one that speaks of old age charm, and the nunnery fits the popular imagination. The movie was shot in Benedict Convent in Nonnberg, where Maria was a nun (Andrews and Plummer). The song “Maria” in the movie was shot in this nunnery. Mirabell Garden and Palace are where the song “Do-re-mi” was shot (Harrison). The movie also showed the Residenz Square and Fountain in Salzburg. Further, the courtyard and main front entrance of Fohnburg Palace was used as the palace outdoor in the movie (Harrison par. 14).

The movie immortalizes the romantic imagination of Europe. The castles, the beautiful natural landscape, the clean lakes, and the palaces that are called “home” create a different feel about the place. Though the Europe that is shown in the movie is not strictly the city of London or Paris, one that strives to keep the old world charm intact, it presents the image of aristocratic Austria that ended before 1918, but it was being used to woo the American audience (Dassanowsky par. 13).

The real image of the Fascist and Nazi regime was not shown in the movie. The “cinematic representation” of Austria presents fictionalized images of Austria that cannot be found in the real geographic location (Dassanowsky par.15). The peaceful countryside that the movie shows creates the notion of Romantic Europe, emphasizing the purity of the countryside and the corruption of the urban landscape.

The film is a fictionalized representation of Austria. The geography of the region, along with its aristocratic past, had faded away, and the film captured a figment of the romantic imagination that creates Europe in our mind. The movie is not a true representation of Salzburg, Austria, and does not create the socio-geographic condition that may validate their claim. The film creates a utopian image of Europe, while Le Intouchables provides the image of Europe as we may see today. The two films represent two different times and geographies. The film definitely should be shown in the class because this will create a clear picture in our mind as to how American cinema has fictionalized Europe in the popular imagination.

Works Cited

Dassanowsky, Robert von. “An Unclaimed Country.” Bright Light Film Journal. 41 (2003). Bright Lights Film Journal. Web.

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Harrison, David. “The hills are alive as the Sound of Music finally returns to Austria.” 2011. The Telegraph. Web.

The Sound of Music. Dir. Robert Wise. Perf. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. 1965. DVD.

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