Friday, March 9, 2012

The Sound of Noise (dir. Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson)

After spending the past week or so soaking in Ingmar Bergman, and looking ahead to more of the same, I couldn't have asked for a more different product of Swedish cinema than this. But boy, what a treat. It's a not uncommon sentiment to feel that sound design is a little overlooked when it comes to film production. After all, as a professor once said, you always say you went to see a movie, or watched a movie, but never listened to one. Obviously that seems like nitpicking, but the point is well taken, especially when a film like Sound of Noise comes along to open up our ears.

Sound of Noise is sort of a musical extension of Exit Through the Gift Shop, examining the responsibility of the artist in society (and especially the confines of the law), and even at what point something ceases to be art. When the film you're watching practically opens with a woman speeding down the highway in a van while her passenger loudly plays a full drum set before launching that same set at a pursuing police officer, you know you're in interesting, but exhilarating hands, and it only gets wilder from there. The central drive of the story revolves around Detective Amadeus Warnebring, the ugly duckling in a family of musicians, and his quest to find the people responsible for a series of musical terrorist acts, the effects of which last much longer on him than on others. And this will all make sense in the end.

What's so unusual is that a film so obsessed with the beauty of finding music anywhere and everywhere would turn to a protagonist who loathes the art form, until it's slowly revealed that his preferences actually fuel that thematic undercurrent. Amadeus may be a police officer, but his personal attachments don't owe any allegiance to his badge, and while his moral negotiations aren't perhaps as thrilling as the film would have us believe, his quiet transformation is very nicely handled. Directors Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, who co-wrote the film with Jim Birmant, have such a passion for, well, the sound of noise that they take pleasure in wallowing in the inescapability of music. That they communicated it so well, not just aurally but visually too, makes for a thrilling, aggressively subversive cinematic experience.

Don't wait for the DVD, or even Blu-ray (uncompressed audio!) release - see it big; see it loud.

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