Study Guide

The Sound of Music War

War

War. What is it good for?

No, that's not a Rodgers and Hammerstein lyric, but we're sure they'd agree. The Sound of Music is mostly a feel-good type of movie, but there's some serious stuff lurking in its background. It's the eve of the Nazi annexation of Austria, and many Austrians think it's a great idea. Captain von Trapp isn't one of them. When character discussions turn to war, you get a very clear sense of where people's priorities and principles are. The threat of war looms large over the entire film even though the closest we get to military action is a shot of goose-stepping Nazis marching into Salzburg.

The movie's consistent return to the topic of the war makes its overall buoyant mood that much more remarkable. It's striking that the von Trapps can remain as sunny (and musical) as they do without the film minimizing the seriousness of the political situation.

In March, 1938, the Germans marched into Austria, and Austria disappeared as an independent nation until the end of WWII. Many Austrians had been enthusiastic about the annexation; those who opposed it risked imprisonment or death. Almost immediately after annexation, the Nazis began their campaign of destroying the Jewish population and political dissenters (source).

What is war good for? Absolutely nothing. (According to the movie, at least.)

Questions About War

  1. What do you think of the film's presentation of war? Does it make light of the topic, given that it's a musical?
  2. How do you think the movie would be different if they had decided to focus more heavily on the war, as the original director, William Wyler, wanted?
  3. Does Max's attitude toward war/the Nazis affect your opinion of him?
  4. What do you think of Captain von Trapp's decision to put his entire family at risk to leave Austria, as opposed to just going along like Max? What does that tell you about his character?

Chew on This

The movie is offensive because it takes the very serious topic of Nazism and works it into a sugary sweet romantic musical. Not exactly "Springtime for Hitler," but still.

The film uses music to symbolize the freedom of expression that the Nazis want to crush.