Max: Friedrich, Gretl, why don’t you sing?
Gretl: I can’t, I’ve got a sore finger.
F: Yes not since I was a kid though.
R: Somehow no.
F: So in the half way podcast you highlighted this Rob as the film you were least looking forward to on account of its length and the fact it’s a musical. Did it exceed those low expectations?
R: Well it is still three hours long and at times events seem to move very slowly, but yeah, there was a lot I liked. You’d have to be a totally heartless chump not to give some credit to Julie Andrews in the role of Maria, or to fail to recognise how great a lot of the songs are.
F: She’s the best thing about this definitely.
R: But… for a three hour film with a pretty simple plot I’m not sure there’s any excuse for how under-baked some of the story elements are. In particular, I wasn’t really convinced by the key romantic plotline.
F: I actually quite liked that part of the story. Although Captain Von Trapp’s switch from being very strict to all singing and dancing is not very believable.
R: Yes, all of Von Trapp’s change of hearts seem to happen very suddenly. I think it’s quite possible that after the final credits he has a change of heart and decides to side with the Nazis after all. All his other convictions seem to change with the wind, so why not?
F: Well the true story of the Von Trapp Family proves that isn’t the case. What do you think of the songs here? They’re so ingrained in my head that I knew them all but I understand you didn’t know Do Re Mi at all?
R: I was pulling your leg! I must have heard you sing the line, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…” at least a dozen times in the time we’ve known each other. For me there’s no denying the songs are clever and well written, but they have probably suffered a little from over-exposure.
F: I think they’re quite ‘musical-ly’ songs as well if you know what I mean? They are the type of songs that only exist in musicals. Similar to West Side Story although I actually prefer this. It didn’t feel stagey and I think the setting of the Austrian mountains really helps gives this a cinematic feel.
R: I know exactly what you mean about the songs – it’s a style that gives the lyrics prominence and I think works well when the lyrics are as strong as they are here. The cinematography really gives you that sense of place – those opening shots in particular are truly memorable and unique.
F: Agreed. What do you think of the performances of the child actors? I thought they were all fairly strong although I think they were helped by being next to Julie Andrews most of the time who is perfectly cast as Maria.
R: I think it also helps that they’re there in an ensemble. It’s when films have child actors emoting directly to camera that they can get into trouble, whereas most scenes here are really just the kids being excited about something. The exception to that is Charmian Carr as the oldest daughter who has a bit more to do. How did you rate her performance?
F: I thought she was fine. Although I don’t believe that a girl of 16 would be too pleased with spending all of her time with the nanny and her six younger siblings!
R: Ha! Yes, that is quite unbelievable!
F: When I watched this when I was younger I think I must have ignored the Nazis in the background but it actually makes it an interesting setting. Especially with the character of Rolf.
R: The sub-plot with Rolf plays out a little predictably, but it does bring some needed depth to the story and helps make Charmian Carr’s character feel more multi- dimensional. Although these days it feels like too many films use the rise of the Nazis as a backdrop, I guess it wasn’t so over-done back in 1965.
F: And the fact it really happened!
Is it Worthy of the Top 100?
F: One of the better musicals on the list. Not as good as Cabaret though and I think perhaps there’s only room for one musical with the Nazi backdrop. So I’ll say no for that reason.
R: I guess? I can certainly see why it’s so well-loved, even if it isn’t a film I’ll be in a hurry to see again.