So, I adore The Sound of Music. I grew up on it. When I was three, I used to ride around my house on my tricycle yelling “They’re gone!” like the soldier did at the end of the festival scene when the Von Trapps escaped to the convent. I know most of the words to all of the songs by heart. So, I really adore the film. That being said, some… interesting changes were made when adapting the stage musical into the film. For some reason, the whole thing was made about an hour longer than it was on stage. Several songs were added to the film and a number were taken away. Herein lies my problem with the movie: two of the cut songs were integral to the plotline of the story and ridding the film of them damages the subplot of Captain Von Trapp and Baroness Elsa Schräder’s failed romance.
How Can Love Survive?
Max and Elsa have two songs in the stage musical, both of which are cut from the film version of The Sound of Music. The first of these songs, How Can Love Survive? examines the “challenges” Elsa and the Captain face in their relationship as two wealthy people. It really serves as a form of foreshadowing their ultimate demise (that’s covered in the other cut song, No Way to Stop It). In the song, Max and Elsa joke that every good romance involves a wealthy person and a poor person and since both Elsa and the Captain are wealthy, their love is ultimately doomed, so how are they to survive? It’s mostly a filler song but it serves an important purpose: develop the Baroness’ character. The film spends absolutely no time on this, instead, it paints her as this caricature of the “wrong woman” for the Captain. She’s portrayed to the audience in the film as airy and stuck up while in the musical she’s presented as intelligent, somewhat manipulative, and willing to do anything in order to survive. This is important to her character and by cutting this song, and the scene that accompanies it, the film robs the audience of all that makes Elsa an interesting character in the stage version.
No Way to Stop It
The biggest problem in the film is that it cut out this song. It’s the song that really hammers that final nail in the coffin of Captain Von Trapp’s relationship with the Baroness. Throughout the musical is this undertone of the forthcoming Nazi takeover of Austria. Captain Von Trapp is a patriotic Austrian who’s very against any kind of German takeover of his country. Max and Elsa, on the other hand, feel like whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen and there’s no point in fighting against it. This is the fatal flaw in Captain Von Trapp’s relationship with Elsa and it’s foreshadowed throughout the stage version. The film, however, tries to tone down the Nazi imagery and undertones as much as possible, possibly in order to make it as marketable as possible. But the film suffers for it. The musical gives the Captain and the Baroness a reason to split up: their ideals don’t match. Elsa is ambivalent towards a Nazi occupation and Captain Von Trapp is fervently against it. In the film, their breakup just sort of happens. It’s chalked up to the Captain’s feelings for Maria, which isn’t inaccurate, but it’s really a mixture of that and the Captain’s long-simmering resentment towards Elsa’s ambivalence towards the Nazis.
The film elects to get rid of both of these songs for no discernible reason. Normally, the excuse would’ve been for time constraints, but as the film is three hours long – an entire hour longer than most productions of the stage version -, it’s hard to argue that it’s for time reasons. Perhaps the actress who portrayed Elsa in the film couldn’t sing, but even that’s a lousy reason as it was common place in the ’60s to dub over actors/actresses who couldn’t sing with the voice of someone who could (check My Fair Lady for proof). So, the best reason I can come up with is that the filmmakers didn’t want the film to have a song that basically said: “Well, the Nazis are gonna take over Austria anyway, so, we might as well let them.” And that’s a shame as it’s really an integral part of the story. The whole musical is about a family who finds love during the impending/beginnings of the Nazi occupation of Austria and eventually escapes the country instead of risking that love so the Captain could fight in the German navy. By trying to wash out that element of the story, the film does a massive disservice to the real Von Trapps. Yeah, much of the movie is fictional, but the real Von Trapps really did escape Austria to avoid the Nazis; pretending the Nazis weren’t a large factor in their lives is foolish. The film tries to avoid it as much as possible. Yes, there’s the scene where Captain Von Trapp rips a flag with a swastika on it, but that’s really the most explicit thing in the film. The rest of it is relegated as far into the background as possible, and it’s a disservice to the source material.
It’s a shame both of these songs were cut from the movie (and were replaced with an obscenely large amount of dialogue heavy scenes that went around in circles and didn’t come anywhere close to developing the characters in the way that these two songs did.) Both No Way to Stop It and How Can Love Survive? further develop the characters of Max and Elsa, allowing them to feel more three dimensional than they do in the film. Both songs also add to the ominous atmosphere that living in the early stages of the Nazi occupation of Austria must have had. Trying to scrub away this important aspect of the source material is really a lesson in how not to adapt a stage musical. Cutting subplots for no reason (when you’re not concerned about time) is just lousy, lazy, and disrespectful. I adore The Sound of Music movie, but it really should’ve gotten rid of the extra hour of material it added to the runtime and kept those two songs from the stage show. It would’ve been a better movie for it.