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The Sound Of Music Is The Perfect Film For Our Times

Michael Gove should have watched this a few times before taking all the fun out of school. It's long been the perfect family Christmas film but now it seems it's the perfect film for all year round.
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

There's no denying these are strange times. A reality TV star in the White House threatening to destroy the world in a nuclear war and Britain being chased around the ring by the EU negotiators, who are just waiting to deliver the knock out blow. 2016 took so many of our heroes but there's one person left who can save us all - Julie Andrews.

To be honest, we don't even need 2017 Julie. But the three hours she committed to screen back in 1964 will get us through the difficult times ahead. And I'm not just talking about family Christmas. Through November, December and the New Year we need to all commit to a programme of watching The Sound of Music as much as possible. It's going to teach us everything we need to know.

Think about it - what's the biggest threat in the world right now? The rise of Trump and militant right-wingers? The fact that there were actual Nazis marching through Charlottesville? I'd say it's a pretty scary concept and of course, the Anschluss-set film has quite a lot of advice on resisting in the face of fascism.

As you may or may not know, Captain Von Trapp is a fiercely proud Austrian and refuses to take up his German naval commission at Bremerhaven because "joining them would be unthinkable". What a man! Even after the Anschluss, he sings a nationalist song which wipes the smile off the local Gauleiter's face.

And he's not afraid to school others in resistance. Take Uncle Max's laissez-faire remark "What's going to happen's going to happen. Just make sure it doesn't happen to you", which is sharply rebuked by Georg, who tells him never to say that again. When Max counters with "You know I have no political convictions. Can I help it if other people do?" The Captain delivers the blistering line that should shake us all out of complacency:

"Oh yes, you can help it. You must help it".

He's not the only one resisting the Nazi rule though. In an act of superb civil disobedience, two of the nuns remove parts from the Nazis' car to allow the Von Trapps to make their getaway. Sister Berthe has form for trolling the Nazis - even when she lets them into the Abbey to search for the Captain, she does so by unlocking the gates incredibly slowly and buying the family vital minutes to get up to the roof.

I think we can all learn something from Sister Berthe. And not just to make people kiss the floor when they've lost an argument with you.

Calling out fascism ("If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section"), acts of defiance against a hateful regime, peaceful protest through song....these are all vital life lessons that we can learn from The Sound of Music. But what else can it teach us?

How about sustainability? Maria wastes no time after she arrives at the villa, re-purposing drapes with all the zeal of a eco warrior. She recognises the indulgent and wasteful lifestyle the family and their staff have created and she makes a change. She doesn't need new material. She just needs a slow fade between scenes and a good template for a headscarf. She buys her fruit fresh from the market, she trains them all to ride bikes instead of sitting in that old car of Georg's and she is constantly refilling all their lungs with fresh mountain air. She's a fine environmental role model for a world that's on the brink of ecological disaster.

What does it have to say about Brexit? Well, not much, I'll admit that. But doesn't it make Europe look like a place you might want to visit without having to purchase some kind of visa? The first 10 minutes are practically sponsored by the Austrian Tourist Board. It also offers a slither of hope for when things look bleak - "When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window".

What's more it teaches us about family (always line up in age order and sing in three languages), love (don't fall for the first boy who spins you round the summer house) and the importance of a play-based curriculum. Michael Gove should have watched this a few times before taking all the fun out of school. It's long been the perfect family Christmas film but now it seems it's the perfect film for all year round.

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