Sunday, December 30, 2012

Remembering The Sound of Music and All Those in the Dark

It’s time to reflect on the past year. To review what has gone wrong, what has gone right, and what has affected who I am as a person. I thought I’d try for something in the murky gray area of bittersweet experience. I will never know their names. I will never be able to recognize them on a street corner. I don’t know them, I will never know them, and yet I will never forget sitting in a darkened theater next to two people trying desperately to remember their past.

Over the summer I was able to attend the majority of ‘The Last 70mm Film Festival’ at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And yes, it has taken me until days of red wine and Humphrey Bogart movies (how else should a person spend an end of the year holiday?) to post about it. While the title is a bit of a tease as ‘the last’ it probably will not be, the sense of impermanence surrounding the festival has forever altered how I experience The Sound of Music.

In the mad dash for seats I ended up next to an old couple, probably in their 80s. After trying my best not to knock knees I settled in, greeted my friend and waited to watch something I’d seen many times before.

The Sound of Music is a breathtaking sight in 70mm, especially those opening shots of the Austrian countryside. I was completely enveloped by it.

Until the people next to me started talking. And talking. At first I was taken aback and sort of thrown off by how rude it was, especially for grown people who generally know better. In a short span I experienced all the general reactions you have when someone interrupts a show, whether it be with side commentary, a cell phone or a bag of Doritos. The nerve.

But then I started to listen.

During one of the musical numbers the two became concerned. ‘Do you remember that song?’ ‘No, no I don’t remember it.’ In the scene where Maria and the children sing “do re mi” and pass through a Salzburg market they began to talk about their own visits to Salzburg; what they thought of the city, some of what they saw. Their exchange became something of a dance to determine what fragmented memories remain, the ones that didn’t waved away with a sigh. When the time came for ‘Climb Every Mountain’ they held hands. Another older man in front of me in a newsboy cap adjusted his hearing aid and wiped his eyes. If this was actually some deeper moment for him I’ll never know, I can only tell how the course of events affected me. I found myself sitting there tearing up, and it wasn’t because of Peggy Wood.

How do you put into words something that’s so grand and sad and strangely hopeful and all the things that films are meant to be.

We often go to the movies for catharsis. How quick we are to forget the real people around us with their own lives, their own happiness and despair. We laugh, we cry, and we leave. But how wonderful to know that for a brief time all the variations of experience, all the things that seem so far away are so often right next to us all along.