Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Sound of Music

Throughout his text "Introduction to Genre Theory: The Problem with Definition", Chandler addresses the controversial issue of defining and classifying genres. Since he defines genre to be a "distinctive type of 'text'"[p.1], he finds it impratical that a text or a movie can be categorized as one type for everyone at all times. He belives that a genre is " abstract conception" [p.2] because there is so many different ways to categorize films: by style, period of time, actors/actresses, etc. A story can fit into many of these categories which made him conclude on the concept of mixed genres. He states that "it is difficult to make clearcutt distinctions between one genre and another; genres overlap, and there are 'mixed genres'" [p. 4]. Lastly, Chandler writes that when some characteristics of a genre stays the same throughout time, it reveals the universal truth about humans. On the contrary, when certain characteristics/expectations of the genre change, it also shows how certain events during that era affected the everyone as a society.

A good example to support Chandler would be the movie "The Sound of Music". It is portrayed to be a romantic movie but is clearly a mixed genre. The plot itself follows a typical romance story whereas two opposing characters unexpectedly falls in love. The nun Maria and Naval Captain Von Trapp oppose each other from the very beginning; Captain criticizes Maria's dress and Maria firmly refuses to use his method of whistles. However, they end up realizing that they are perfect for each other like other romantic films. It also has a very typical climax because Baronness interefers with their love out of her jealousy and subletly encourages Maria to return to the abby. However, Maria ends up coming back after running away and they confess their love for one another. This is a very typical romance plot where there is usually something that separates them but the two characters end up confessing their forgiveness and love.

There are also amorous scenes that all audiences expect in a romantic movie. This film contains many expected scenes like when Maria and the Captain dance together outside the ball under the moon. They don't take their eyes off one another and eventually blush. Another enchanting scene is when they confess their love for one another under the stars by the lake. They sing to each other and kiss in this dreamy setting. Although these expectations are impractical, it shows that everyone fantasizes about this kind of love and ideas. It shows the human nature of people to want to love and idealize on the ideas of unrealistic romance.

The film has many of the romance movie's characteristics. However, the film supports Chandler's article because this is also a mixed genre. It also overlaps with other genre's characteristics and can be a catholic film, historic memoir, and a musical. Many of it's important scenes uses the church as a setting, such as for the wedding and as a hideout from the Nazis. Therefore, this can be also a catholic film because the Captain and Maria are both catholic believers as they briefly pray "God be with us" when they hide from the Nazis with the Mother at the church. Since this is a movie based on a real person named Captain Von Trapp, this is partially a memoir. It also shows the historic problems people had to deal with the Germans back then and brings a sense of reality. Lastly, from the beginning to the end, there is constant singing. The movie starts with Maria singing, continues with scenes that includes singing to show love for the Von Trapps, and ends with a song as a family.

Chandler states that the film should "embody the crucial ideological concerns of the time in which [it is] popular". This overlap of genre expectations show that the people during that time were involved with more than just romance. During this era, many people had suffered through the World War II and it's after effects. The catholic faith that Maria and the Captain held on to was something many people could have connected to; this era encouraged many people strengthen their faith in God and depend on Him like the Von Trapps did. It also shows how much people enjoyed music and dancing in those days; they used the song's lyrics to express their love unlike now where it's more about the song's appeal is so that it can be a top seller. It shows the difference between the people then where they used music for genuine purposes unlike now where it's more about the rhythm and money.

This story however, does not end like typical love stories. Although Maria and the Captain gets married, they do not live the normal happily ever after. The captain shows the patriotic Austrian pride that was very difficult to show during the reign of the Nazis. He stood up against the Germans and was soon unfortunately informed to prepare to leave for the German Navy which the Captain refuses to do. Although they escape successfully to Switzerland, they lose all of their material wealth. If this movie was watched among people raised now, it wouldn't portray the same meaningful ending as it did for people back then. This ironic unromantic ending shows that the people had deeper conflicts and therefore, a deeper meaning of happiness. For them, just being together with their family even if they lose everything is the best that could have happened. This surprising ending shows the differences in audience then and now.

The movie "The Sound of Music" clearly supports Chandler's article for various reasons. It is an example of a mixed genre, and also supports his idea that genre's characteristics reflect the people directly.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting and valuable overall points about the mixing of genre. It does tend to wander off topic, especially when you shift to general statements about people (everyone fantasizes about this kind of love and ideas. It shows the human nature of people to want to love and idealize on the ideas of unrealistic romance), that don't seem drawn from anything specific in the film. Still, nice work with Chandler. Try to keep thinking about what you're saying overall about genre--does this idea of 'mixed genre' mean that the whole concept of genre is useless?