Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Art for Art's Sake: The Sound of Music

I neglected to mention one more genre of "film-art." And, once I explain it, you'll understand why.
In many movies, art is (obviously) prevalent. There is, of course, an art of set design, of costume design, even of the jewelry that appears in films. But I digress, even without that, there is still art in movies that adds nothing to the plot. The three previously mentioned "genres" if you will of art in movies: love/obsession, ghosts, and repressed emotion. This art does not really even relate to the characters.
The fact is, in many movies, sometimes art is put in "just because." That umbrella terms usually refers to one thing though. I have found that when paintings,sculptures,etc. do not relate to the plot or characters, they help create a setting. It is, to use the cliche, Art for Art's Sake.

For instance, a painting in the background of a scene may not play any major role in a plot. But- if there is a romance that takes place in 18th century France, the imitation-Boucher that appears in the background is there because it adds to the setting. The setting can, of course, add to the overall mood of the film. But, in this case, the parts do not equal the whole in importance. Alone, these pieces are not needed- but (usually, not always) together, a combination of works adds to the setting which add to the mood.
Let me provide an example for you.

One of my favorite movies of all time is (and how cliche is this) The Sound of Music. If you haven't been around of earth for a while- the film stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It's a musical, by Rogers and Hammerstein, about a nun-in-training who sings and a lot of kids. Just watch the movie.

Around half-way through the film, there's a wedding between the Captain and Maria. It's a beautiful scene, a fruition of the main characters' love for each other. But this is relevant because it takes place in this beautiful Cathedral. The place sets the mood for the wedding- beautiful and grand.
So, the entire church is beautiful, but I'm going to focus on one piece in particular that I always notice when I watch the film. Here we go...

It's a beautiful Baroque altar piece, consisting of gorgeous woodwork, carved saints, and even a sculptural crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven (in the center). As a Roman Catholic, I find it beautiful, and I feel even the non-religious can find inspirational in the artwork.
So here's a little bit about it.
The wedding scene was filmed on location, like much of the film. In specific, it was filmed in the Mondsee Cathedral in Mondsee, which is located in Northern Austria.
If you really want, you can look up the history of the Church. It was established and built and re-built in the good old days of the Holy Roman Empire and than the Austrian Empire. It was originally part of an Abbey, and it may still even serve the Abbey- I'm not sure if monks are still living next door.
But I digress...
The altarpiece itself was created by one of the foremost Baroque Austrian sculptors, a Meinrad Guggenbichler. He was a wood-carver who studied under his father, and learned much from local Austrian traditions, actually many from Salzburg, itself. He built a couple of "high altars" for some churches and finally settled in Mondsee (which is very close to Salzburg) and worked on this piece (and the rest of the pieces in the Church) the rest of his life. You can get a glimpse of them here.

 So, you can tell, the Church is magnificent and beautiful, even grandiloquent, in the typical Baroque style. This sets the mood for the wedding. You can tell from the setting and the artwork around it, that the marriage is a large-scale and traditional event. If the wedding had taken place in a simple little chapel, the mood would have been completely different.
When I write about this artwork- the knowledge is mainly trivia. But still (I think) it's worth knowing.

By the way, if you are actually reading this, comment with some criticism- I'd really appreciate it. I enjoy sharing my knowledge, but I'd love to find out if you think it's (even a little) neat.

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