Study Guide

The Sound of Music Setting


Austria, Late 1930s

Salzburg was home to the sound of music long before Maria von Trapp showed up. It's the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for Pete's sake. It's located right on Germany's southern border.

The movie wastes no time showing off the gorgeousness of Salzburg and its mountains. Director Robert Wise devotes a lot of time to aerial shots of mountains, clouds, and trees during the opening sequence, all of which lead up to that famous shot of Maria spinning on the hilltop. Then, a few minutes later when the credits begin, we move from natural to architectural scenery, with shots of the buildings and cityscapes of Salzburg.

Anyway, by beginning the movie with this emphasis on the characters' surroundings, Wise clues us into the fact that the film's setting is probably going to be pretty important. Sure enough, once we get into the actual story, we learn that one of the major plotlines revolves around Austria's struggle to resist the German occupation in World War II. Captain von Trapp absolutely refuses to play ball with the Germans when his homeland is annexed, and has to flee when the Nazis force him to take a commission in their navy.

The movie also uses song to highlight the importance of setting, as in the song "Edelweiss." As we discuss in our "Symbols" section, "Edelweiss" is most definitely a love song to Austria, and so it's pretty bittersweet that the captain sings it on the very night he knows he's leaving Austria, possibly never to return.

Salzburg loves The Sound of Music, even if most Austrians don't. It's been a tourist gold mine for the city.