Ernest Hemingway once said “If I am stuck, I think of one true sentence and begin with that.” As I am clearly stuck and don’t know how else to start this entry, I’m going to begin with that quote. I am also pretty sure that I have misquoted that particular line from Hemingway.
As a tourist, the city of Saltzburg seems to stress two major things: Mozart and The Sound of Music. Yes there are many other things to see in Saltzburg, such as the mountains, the gorgeous countryside, the salt mines, and the famous bridge where lovers attach locks to, but most of the souvenirs and advertisements seemed to be based around those two things. Being tourists in Saltzburg, my family and I went to see the sites focused on Mozart and The Sound of Music.
I saw a collection of portraits fully devoted to portraying Mozart. It was an interesting art collection to view because the creators of this exhibit stressed that nobody knew exactly what Mozart looked like. Back then, without the aid of photographs, how a person is portrayed relied heavily on the painter. Each painting was subjected to the artist’s personal bias, limitations, and artistic style. The collection consisted of beautiful pieces of artwork, but none of them could accurately portray Mozart as Mozart. All drawings were different. Some featured him as a relatively thin gentleman, and some as a slightly chubby aristocrat. Despite so many pictures being commissioned for him, the facial features were never consistent, nor agreeable. On top of that, Mozart was heavily idolized as a musician, and all artistic renditions were most likely air-brushed so-to-speak. It was said that in reality, he was a relatively disagreeable looking person. Thus, as painters and artists, most of the time they didn’t draw Mozart as he was in reality.
As my family and I were in Saltzburg, we attended The Sound of Music Tour. I was a fan of The Sound of Music, so this was both a fulfilling a heartbreaking experience. It was fulfilling because I got to see many of the major sites that the movie was filmed at: such as the gazebo where 16 Going on 17 was sung. But it was heartbreaking, because the tour guide told us many movie facts that took away from the magic, such as that much of the movie was actually filmed in Hollywood instead of Saltzburg. For example, the part of 16 Going on 17 that took inside the gazebo was filmed in a larger reconstructed set back in LA. Furthermore, I’ve also learnt that most of the story was based on the Von Trapp family’s experience, but Hollywood, being Hollywood, made some dramatic changes. For example, the family never escaped over the mountains, because going over the Alps would have lead them directly into Germany.
While on the tour I visited the church that the Captain and Maria’s wedding was filmed at (unfortunately this was at a different church than the actual wedding between the real captain and Maria). They had an art exhibit by Hans Frank. According to the description I got, he painted many pictures, but mostly of Austria’s countryside “not as it was naturally, but as it should be.” He painted fields and lakes and mountains, but removed much of the railroads, or towns, or other human buildings.
All of this made me think about reality; about the ones we create and the ones we distort. With art we can transfigure reality or imagine alternative scenarios. And I don’t think that distorting reality through art is a bad thing. I think art is a creative process, where we can make something new or even impossible happen. We realize whether we are viewing drawings or movies or artwork or even when we are reading literature that reality is being distorted. And through these forms of medium, we can express ourselves even better. I think we are all like Hans Frank in a way when we create something. We are all trying to find and paint realities that are not necessarily always real, but as how we think they must be. And through that we paradoxically reflect some truth.