A Century of Movies at the Alamo: The Sound of Music (1965) August 21 at 6pm

Submitted by abertin

There isn’t much I can say about the Sound of Music that hasn’t already been said. You all know the story and almost everyone has seen it or at least knows the songs (If you haven’t seen it, you must have had a wicked childhood or a miserable youth; but somewhere in your youth or childhood, you must have done something good because you get to see it now). So, if it’s okay with all of you, this month there won’t be any trivia or deep insights about the film. Instead, I’m just going to talk about what The Sound of Music means to me and hopefully what it means to you too.

When someone brings up The Sound of Music to me, it always evokes memories of childhood, specifically rainy days spent with my grandmother, both of us curled up under blankets, listening to Julie Andrews sing, jumping at the pertness of the Captain’s whistle, and being in awe of the grandness of those “hills”. Whenever I watch it, I’m brought back to that warm, lazy, safe space away from the storm outside, and I think of her. Every time I watch The Sound of Music (or even just see a clip of it), she’s right there with me and I feel comforted and safe. It was our movie. Okay, honestly, we had a lot of movies. I’m a film archivist, so obviously I’m someone who loves movies and always has. I spent a lot of time growing up watching all kinds of movies and forcing my begrudging family members to watch them along with me, but my grandmother was perhaps the only member of my family who, at least from my perspective, didn’t see this as a chore. Imagine that burgeoning actor constantly hosting plays in her living room for her family and roping her unhappy siblings into playing the other parts; except in my case it was convincing my cousins that they really didn’t want to go swimming in our backyard pool. What they really wanted to do was watch a Francois Truffaut film on the tiny SD television in our living room with me! In hindsight, I can understand the hesitation. My grandmother, though, was just as excited to watch a Hitchcock film or a screwball comedy starring Cary Grant or a big-production studio-era musical or a pre-code drama as I was. She wasn’t as excited about the foreign films or the experimental films, but she was willing to try them if I was interested. I spent a lot of my youth jumping around from one genre or director or country to another, just trying out movies to see which ones I liked and, always, my grandmother was right there with me. She was my exploration partner as I moved from French New Wave to Italian Neo-Realism, from Ingmar Bergman to Dorothy Arzner, and from the earliest films of the Lumiere Brothers to the most recent documentaries of Joe Berlinger. So we watched a lot of movies together and we watched a lot of movies together multiple times.

For some reason though, out of all of the movies we watched together, The Sound of Music, more than any of the others, is the one that makes me think about her. Maybe it is because it was the movie that we watched on rainy days or when one of us wasn’t feeling well so it evokes that sense of “feel better medicine” and no matter what the problem or sickness was, my grandmother was my ultimate “feel better medicine”. Maybe it’s because no matter what time of the day or night it was, if she found it on TV, she would stop everything to watch it through to the end. In that moment, nothing was more important to her than seeing the Von Trapp family climb that final mountain. I remember coming home from college for the holidays and she would be sitting in the living room watching The Sound of Music for the 497th time and I would ask in a mildly annoyed voice, if we could watch something else. I would plead with her that there must be something else we could both enjoy, preferably something we hadn’t seen 496 times before. After listening to me rant at length about all of our other options, she would just simply say, “No, I want to watch this”, and then I would sit down, a little more than mildly annoyed, and very quickly become completely engrossed in The Sound of Music for the 497th time and in that moment, nothing else mattered to me except seeing the Von Trapp family climb that final mountain.

I suspect the main reason The Sound of Music reminds me so much of my grandmother, though, is because, to me at least, it is the quintessential family movie. Despite the grandeur of the Austrian Alps, the ominous looming of the Nazis, or even the convenience of Maria’s appearance in the Von Trapp family’s lives (or their appearance in hers), at its heart, The Sound of Music is a simple story about a family struggling to find the simple joy of living and being together. For the Von Trapp’s, that joy comes from singing. For my grandmother and I, that joy came from watching movies together. For you and your family, it might be something completely different. No matter what it is that draws us together and makes us family, in the traditional sense of the word or otherwise, we know, and the Sound of Music reminds us, it isn’t the grand gestures or the celebrations of holidays. It is the simple moments, the times when we sit down on a couch next to each other and watch a movie or when we hear a song on the radio and instantly start singing together or when we aren’t feeling well and someone brings us a blanket and a cup of tea. The Sound of Music envelops us in the comfort and safety of our families in these quiet moments spent together. It is purely a film that makes us happy, makes us think of home, and we love it because of this, or at least I do.

This a movie for everybody – the whole family – so bring out the kids, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, and the grandparents. Escape for a few hours to Salzburg and spend some time with a family that’s not so different from your own, a family just trying to live their lives with as much joy as possible. I’m going to be there watching for the 538th time and thinking of my grandmother and all the rainy days we spent together. I hope you’ll join me and think of your families too.

Okay, one fun fact before I go just because I love this little bit of trivia so much: This film is considered to be so uplifting that it is rumored to be one of the films selected by BBC executives to show to survivors after a nuclear strike to lift their spirits. I’m not kidding. When asked to comment on this rumor, the BBC said, “This is a security issue so we cannot comment”. You can decide for yourself what that means.

The Sound of Music (1965) starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Sunday, August 21st, at 6pm at the Alamo Theatre. Doors open at 5:30pm. Tickets cost $5 and are free for Members and Century Donors.