Title: The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music (2015; NR*)
Director: Ben Verbong
Major Themes: Austria, Family Life, World War II
Synopsis: The Trapp Family’s story, based on an autobiography from the perspective of the eldest daughter, Agatha.
Years ago, Mom read a book to us about the Trapp Family Singers. I couldn’t have been much more than six or seven at the time, yet I remember how fascinating their story was. A year or two after that, we found a VHS tape of The Sound of Music at a second-hand store, and, knowing that it was based on their story, Mom bought it. We didn’t get into it very far, though—maybe to the first time the eldest daughter slipped off to see her boyfriend—before Dad and Mom gave up on it in disgust. Since then, I’ve watched that movie a couple of times, and have grown to appreciate it. Though it isn’t completely true to the original story, it still gives a feel and flavor of the times, as well as being a lovely musical all in its own right.
Recently, when I saw The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music in a friend’s collection of DVDs, I was intrigued. Was this another interpretation of the original family’s story, or was it more closely aligned to what actually happened? Although it ended up slightly different from what I remember of the story (from well over 10 years ago), it was still a fascinating watch.
The movie is from the perspective of Agatha, the oldest daughter in the Von Trapp family. Her mother is sick, and has been for a while—and suddenly, she dies, and the children and their father have to wade through their grief as well as they can. Several years later, they move to a different area, and Agatha grows into a young woman capable of handling the children and directing the household in her mother’s place. That position becomes somewhat problematic when she runs several governesses off one after another, because she wants to stay in control of what happens at home. However, one day, Maria comes as the new governess—and life changes for Agatha forever.
Though I’ve known the story of the Von Trapp family for a very long time, it was good and somewhat of a shock again to see all they had to go through. Their path—start to finish—wasn’t easy, and I had to wonder how they made it through sometimes. Especially as the war came on, tensions were very high, and with the family dynamics changing, things weren’t at all easy. I would have loved to know if they were Christians or not, and what effect that had on things; that didn’t seem to be there in this film, but I don’t know how that was in real life.
If you’re looking for a more true-to-life portrayal of their story than in The Sound of Music, The Von Trapp Family: A Life of Music would be an excellent choice. It’s not the most upbeat film ever, but it wasn’t an easy time. I came away feeling like I had visited back in time, and now I’d like to go dig out that biography we have again! I think I could probably learn a lot from it, and having seen this, it might help to make some parts more understandable! Recommended.
*This movie is unrated on IMDB; it’s rated PG in New Zealand, but the rating may be different in other areas of the world.
WARNING: From 00:11:00-00:12:00, the children see their mother for the last time, and around 00:13:00 they have her funeral. Agatha slips off to see her semi-boyfriend at times behind her father’s back. The father is arguing with and shouting at Agatha from 1:02:30-1:03:45. From 1:14:50-1:16:10, a man is caught putting up anti-Nazi propaganda, is beaten up, and they say he died on the way to the hospital (the beating is on-screen; the main character sees him after he is left for dead). I’d guess around 1:27:00, there is a brief scene where Nazis are rounding men up in the middle of the night and putting them in their trucks. From 1:28:00-1:29:00, Nazis destroy the family’s home as the family escape on foot out the back lawn—you see them breaking glass and attempting to pillage or smash other things.
Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults