Sound Of Noise (2010) Film Review


Directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson

Sound Of Noise is labeled as a black humor and oddball action film, which it is. More than anything, though, it is a music film – one which celebrates and pays homage to experimental music, as well as avant-garde classical composers.

From the hand-drawn opening credits of Sound Of Noise, I knew there would be something punk rock about this film, and there certainly is. A pair of misfits — a music school dropout and a stoic songwriter — enlist four percussionists to join them for a four-movement composition entitled Music For One City And Six Drummers. Executed in true anarchist fashion, the movements take on the form of musical flash mobs, performed in stuffy locations using unlikely on-site equipment.

In their first movement, “Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas (In My Ass),” the six-person band research and field record every sound in a hospital to find their ideal instruments. They then perform their gig in a surgery room, where they use everything from heart rate monitors to vacuum pipes and oxygen tanks as percussive tools. Every subsequent movement scales up in level of illegality and general outlandishness, concluding in a fourth movement so extreme that even director Johannes Nilsson admitted in a San Francisco International Film Festival Q&A that it may not actually be feasible.

Throughout the course of the film, the musical protagonists rage against a machine, which takes the form of classical music. Formal music training and its related institutions serve as the symbolic antithesis to the band’s punk rock, no-holds-barred, all-rules-broken mentality. On a more subtle level, the film brings up many theoretical music-related questions; it is centered around experimental songs some may not recognize as music, and hence calls into question just what music is.

Sound Of Noise is a film made by music lovers, for music lovers. All of the members of the six-person band played themselves and used their own names, bringing their own musical contributions and tendencies to the film. Magnus Börjeson, who plays Magnus in the film, is one of the film’s primary composers. And despite how extreme the plots and instruments used may seem, they are more real than one would think. Nilsson reveals that the cast spent a year collecting obscure field recordings to find the sounds used in the film, and with regards to the final executed compositions, he says that, “95% of what you see is what you hear.”

Combining the clever sound synthesis antics of Stomp with the documentary style of the best takeaway shows you’ve ever seen, Sound Of Noise creates a sonic palette on which the imaginations of musicians and filmmakers to run wild.

Viewed at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Sound Of Noise will also be screening this year at the Seattle International Film Festival.

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