Whilst it’s true to acknowledge that perceptions of Belonging depend on various contexts, these perceptions are also reliant on the composer’s choice of language modes, forms, features and structures. Therefore, the amalgamation of different contexts and the composer’s creative decisions induce particular perceptions of Belonging seen through comparative links between the 1998 memoir Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita and Robert Wise’s 1965 film “The Sound of Music”.
Such comparative links include the neglect of their children that Christine Anna Dorr and Georg vonn Trapp perpetrate, the patriotism for their homelands that Romulus Gaita and Georg express, and the political ideologies of Nazism and communism bringing about forced relocations. With such contexts come the composers’ creative choices to portray them and thus, the intertwining of them which brings about perceptions of Belonging. Perceptions of not belonging are induced by the neglect of their children that Christine and Georg instigate.
This is stressed in Romulus, My Father through Gaita’s resentful references to his mother’s utter incapacity to fulfil rudimentary maternal tasks due to her mental illness which has a detrimental impact on her belonging with her son. As a personal context refers to elements that are one’s own and individual, this context shapes Christine’s perception of not belonging, with it being an intrinsic component of Christine’s identity to feel disconnectedness from parenting due to her psychological woes.
This is also shaped by a social context (which refers to the connections made with other people) because it highlights Christine’s aversion to socially connecting with her offspring, again exploring the barriers to belonging that her mental illness induced. This is evident when Gaita states, “After she gave birth to me, she showed signs of an illness that was to become increasingly severe in the coming decade. She seemed incapable of taking care of me, ignoring my elementary needs of feeding and bathing. Through this cutting tone and emphatic, harsh lexical choice (“increasingly severe”, “seemed incapable”, “ignoring”), it’s evident that the composer has chosen to stress his own perspective that Christine was unequivocally inapt for the maternal role and therefore, doesn’t belong with it in personal and social contexts. In saying this, Gaita exemplified bias against his mother as Christine’s voice is absent from the text (the reader isn’t presented with any strong perspectives from her), supporting that perceptions of belonging are shaped by different contexts and compositional decisions.
This sense of not belonging is mirrored in “The Sound of Music” through Georg’s blatant neglect of his children. In contrast to Christine, however, Georg isn’t suffering from a mental illness, distancing himself from his children so as not to be reminded of his wife who passed away. This perception of not belonging is shaped by a personal context, with his own emotionally traumatising experience of losing someone he cherished initiating his negligence towards anyone directly connected to her (his children).
This is also shaped by a social context as his experience of loss has dissuaded him from socially interacting with and nurturing the familial group of his seven children and therefore, negatively impacting his paternal social skills. This is evident when his housekeeper, Frau Schmidt, states to Maria, “Ever since the captain lost his poor wife, he runs this house as if on one of his ships… No more music, no more laughing. Nothing that reminds him of her.
Even the children. ” Through Schmidt’s regretful intonation and facial expression in addition to the compositional choice to use short, sharp truncated sentences and the repetition of “no more” followed by lexicon renowned for positive connotations (“music”, “laughing”) in the dialogue, Georg’s sense of not belonging in personal and social contexts is emphasised. This supports that perceptions of belonging are shaped by different contexts and compositional decisions.
Perceptions of belonging are evoked through the profound patriotism that Romulus and Georg express for their homelands. This is evident in Romulus, My Father when Romulus’ transition to Australia ignites in him a fierce nostalgia for his European place of birth. This perception of belonging to place is shaped by a personal context as Romulus’ own memories of the European landscape provoke feelings of yearning and allegiance to his homeland which are magnified by his relocation to Australia.
Gaita reflects, “He longed for the generous and soft European foliage, but the eucalypts of Baringhup, scraggy except for the noble red gums on the river bank, seemed symbols of deprivation and barrenness… ” Through Gaita’s decision to include the intense lexical choice “longed”, positive connotations detailing the European landscape (“generous”, “soft”) and juxtaposition of negative emotive language to describe Australian foliage (“scraggy”, “symbols of deprivation and barrenness”), the motif of Romulus’ devotion to Europe has a stronger impact on the audience’s perceptions of his personal belonging to place.
As a cultural context refers to the lifestyle, customs, traditions, heritage and habits of a particular civilisation, these perceptions are also shaped by a cultural context because Romulus feels belonging to community through the European cultural tradition of valuing equality. This is evident when Gaita reflects, “… he belonged to a long tradition of European thought which celebrated, as an essential constitute of a fulfilled human life, a community of equals… Through the reverent tone in Gaita’s anecdote and the lexical choice of “belonged” and “celebrated”, perceptions of cultural belonging are conveyed, upholding that perceptions of belonging are formed by various contexts and compositional choices. This perception of belonging corresponds with Georg’s ardent love for Austria in “The Sound of Music” which is evident upon his family’s request that he sing for them.
This perception of belonging to place is shaped by a personal context as it’s his own choice to perform “Edelweiss”; a folk tune celebrating the Austrian flower located high in the Alps, therefore highlighting his personal feelings of affection for his homeland. He tenderly sings, “Edelweiss, Edelweiss/ Bless my homeland forever. ” Through the compositional decision to base the lyrics around a cherished, impassioned tone, with the lexical choice “bless” indicating that Georg wishes to confer happiness and prosperity on his homeland, his intense personal belonging with Austria is emphasised.
His sentimental facial expression captured in a medium eye level shot (putting the viewer on an equal footing to him) and his crooning intonation exuding enamour consolidates this personal belonging. These perceptions are also shaped by a cultural context as Georg culturally associates Austria with traditions revolving around privacy and freedom; he questions these values he grew to love when his telegram is infiltrated, stating, “I was under the impression… that the contents of telegrams in Austria are private!
At least, the Austria I know. ” Through Georg’s film directions to angrily slam his car door and deliver the first sentence of his dialogue with an elevated, enraged intonation contrasted by a more gentle, melancholic vocal delivery and calmed body language in his next sentence, it’s evident that Georg longs for the liberated Austria he knew prior to the introduction of Nazi culture and through this, perceptions of cultural belonging to the former Austria are conveyed.
This corroborates that various contexts and compositional choices shape perceptions of belonging. Perceptions of not belonging and belonging arise from the political ideologies of Nazism and communism which bring about forced relocations, compelling families to belong elsewhere. This is explored in Romulus, My Father when Pantelimon and Mitru flee from Romania to resist communism.
These perceptions of not belonging and subsequent belonging are shaped by historical (which refers to the moods, attitudes and conditions present in a historical period) and cultural contexts as Pantelimon and Mitru’s attitudes were antipathetic regarding communist ideology during this epoch, with the historical event of communism serving as a barrier to their belonging to place and community because it conflicted with their cultural values of liberty and justness. Because of Australia’s democratic nature which they culturally valued after their former tyrannous context, perceptions of belonging may be seen from this relocation.
These perceptions are evident when Gaita informs, “Realising what was in store for anyone who valued freedom and justice, Pantelimon decided to escape, urging his brother to join him, before the weight of communism’s oppressive apparatus fell upon both of them… they secured a passage to Australia. ” Gaita’s decision to include emphatic lexical choice (“escape”, “urging”, “oppressive”) and the intense idiom “fell upon both of them”, cements perceptions of not belonging.
His compositional choice to juxtapose this with lexicon that reflects belonging (“secured”) upon their emigration to Australia emphatically shifts the perceptions from not belonging to belonging in historical and cultural contexts, maintaining that perceptions of belonging are shaped by different contexts and compositional decisions. These perceptions of belonging and not belonging are analogous to the von Trapp family’s forced relocation from Austria to Switzerland in “The Sound of Music”. In contrast to communism in Rolumus, My Father, however, the von
Trapps flee from the impending Nazi regime. These perceptions are shaped by historical and cultural contexts as the von Trapps’ attitudes and cultural values are staunchly anti-Nazi during the context of Nazi Austria, fiercely opposing invaders because of the deep affection they possess for their formerly liberated place of birth. These contexts are a barrier to their belonging to place and community, and in order to regain the freedom they once experienced and culturally valued in Austria, perceptions of belonging are seen when they’re forced to attain security elsewhere.
These is evident when the von Trapps hide from patrolling Nazis in the cemetery and are seen concealing themselves behind gravestones in low key light as the diegetic sounds of their frightened gasps and the threatening footsteps of the Nazis break the foreboding silence, hence bringing forth perceptions of not belonging to place and the Nazi community. The barred gate in front of the gravestones that the Nazis menacingly shake in the hope of discovering the von Trapps is also a symbol of the family’s feelings of imprisonment and therefore, not belonging.
These perceptions are contrasted with the final scene of the movie as the von Trapps freely transition on foot to Switzerland. Perceptions of belonging are seen through Wise’s choice to include the poignant background music of a choir singing “Climb Every Mountain” (a metaphor for belonging), the camera zooming out and rising upwards in a crane shot to show an extreme long shot of the picturesque Alps, and a panning shot indicating where they’re headed and will ultimately belong in historical and cultural contexts.
This propounds that perceptions of belonging are shaped by different contexts and compositional decisions. In conclusion, Romulus, My Father and “The Sound of Music” support the idea that perceptions of Belonging depend on different contexts. The presence of personal, social, cultural and historical contexts all contribute towards shaping various notions of belonging seen through the comparative evaluation of both texts.
In saying this, such perceptions are also induced by the composers’ choices of language modes, forms, features and structures which encourage the responder to experience belonging or not belonging with the text and the world it represents. Such textual decisions of the composer encompass bias, absent voices, juxtaposition and various camera techniques that influence the audience’s perspectives. Therefore, perceptions of Belonging are ultimately dependent on the intermingling of different contexts and compositional decisions.