Sky-diving, bungee-cord jumping, watching a classic musical in a theatre; these are all things that make life a thrilling experience. Everyone should have the experience to watch a vintage film on a big screen with other admirers, and I had that opportunity when I saw The Sound of Music.
For the unfortunate souls who have never seen a classic film on big screen, let me tell you, the only word to describe the relationship between the film and viewers is “intimate.” Seeing every single detail blown up 100 times bigger than you’re normally used to is awe-inspiring, because all those little things were put there for a purpose. The people and objects and landscapes were framed in the screen a certain way, and you’re seeing it how director Robert Wise intended for you to see it – not all crammed or cut on a television screen.
Normally, watching movies, I tend to get sucked in to the narrative and forget to step back and observe the technical aspects. Classic Hollywood filmmakers wanted viewers to not notice the film style, but as a Film Studies student, that is a no-no. Watching The Sound of Music on a big screen, however, made me see how Wise utilised space to tell the story – and not just in the first few memorable minutes of the film.
The camera shots Wise uses express the large amounts of space and freedom there is – enhancing Austria’s beauty and the enormity of the Von Trapp mansion – until the Germans arrive. During the time Captain Von Trapp is in Vienna, there are especially huge amounts of space for the children to experience and learn about the two most pleasurable things in life: music and the value of playtime. Under Captain Von Trapp’s paternal regime, the children were boxed in the home and chained to discipline and routine. You can see this in the square-shaped interiors of the home.
The color is gray, drab, lifeless. The Von Trapp kids cannot grow or be happy in this environment, yet the space they have is still enormous. When Maria becomes the parental figure during Captain Von Trapp’s absence, she takes them outside to the mountains where they can drink in the fresh air and their soon-to-be-lost culture and freedom. With Maria comes the aesthetic beauty of the film. She gives them the chance to enjoy life as children before they are to prematurely grow up during the devastating years of World War II.
Enter the Nazis. To put it briefly, their intent was to shrink the world by obliterating all other cultures and having theirs rule as the sole one. The space they are framed in is tight and claustrophobic. There is no room for aesthetic beauty in German space, only death, as you will see shortly. From the freedom and remoteness of the mountains, the Von Trapps are placed under the eye of the spotlight on the stage of the music festival, unable to move away from the careful watch of their Nazi guards.
Once they manage to escape, they are forced to retreat to the safety of the small amount of room behind two headstones in the monastery’s cemetery. To fight against the power closing in on them, they must find a tighter space than the Nazis can put them in – beating them at their own game. Austria has fallen, but it is a critical moment where their personal freedom is at stake.
Alas, we know how the Von Trapps’ story ends. They successfully escape to Switzerland, where they are surrounded by abounding space and the freedom to hold on to personal beliefs.
Watching a movie like The Sound of Music on the big screen can give you another perspective of the film by allowing you to see things you normally would not have noticed otherwise. Obtaining a new appreciation for the more invisible aspects of cinema and learning to apply my school lessons to films I watch outside of class…now these are a few of my favorite things.
Katie is a Film Studies student in Canada and the co-host of a classic film podcast called The Scarlett Olive. The biggest star she and her co-host have interviewed so far is Ed Asner. For more information be sure to check out her website, The Scarlett Olive.