Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson’s “Sound of Noise” is a uniquely creative tale of music — or noise, depending on your aural viewpoint — forced upon the public by musical terrorists. Winning the Young Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the New Voices/New Visions Special Jury Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, “Sound of Noise” is unlike any film you’ve seen in terms of narrative. It’s probably unlike any film you’ve ever heard as well, not counting the filmmakers’ award-winning short “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers” (2001).
From the outset, “Sound of Noise” describes how music enveloped the life of Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson). From old photos we see his family: His mother was a pianist, his dad a conductor, and his little brother Oscar played the violin at age 4 and composed music at 12. But for Amadeus, who was born tone deaf, music is nothing more than discordant notes that literally cause him aural pain. Thus, Amadeus is the black sheep of the family; he’s a police officer.
The film introduces present day Amadeus at his police station as he switches off a colleague’s easy listening radio station. His distaste for music is immediately seen. Then we meet Sanna (Sanna Persson Halapi) and Magnus (Magnus Borjeson) driving in a van. Sanna sets the musical metronome in motion on the car’s dash as an enthusiastic drumbeat is heard. What seems to be the film’s score is actually Magnus playing a drum set in the back of the van.
It’s not long before the speeding van is spotted by a motorcycle cop, who gives chase. The van eludes the cop through speed, daring turns, and literally throwing the drum set at the pursuing motorbike.
Later, the van is found crashed into an embassy with a mysterious ticking heard from within. Amadeus arrives on the scene and fearlessly walks up to the van as his colleagues warn him against a possible bomb. He recognizes the ticking and pulls out a metronome.
The stage is set: Amadeus and the law against Sanna and Magnus and their soon-to-be-formed merry band of drummers/musicians. Their plan is to create a four-piece apocalyptic orchestral movement that will be played using public objects and spaces as the instruments. It’s amazing to see how surgical operating room devices, a bank, or large-scale machinery like bulldozers can be manipulated to create a musical score.
While most see these terrorists’ compositions as noise, Amadeus for the first time hears music and becomes obsessed with solving (or meeting) the musicians.
Enlisting composer Magnus Borjeson (who plays Magnus), filmmakers Simonsson and Nilsson and French foley artist Nicolas Becker recorded hundreds of sounds. Per the film’s production notes, Borjeson’s goal was to make “music that he liked himself: contemporary, beat based, with plenty of room for experiment.” For the classical music score, French composer Fred Avril lent his talents.
But “Sound of Noise” isn’t all sound, dialog, music, and noise. The filmmakers also cleverly play with silence, which becomes a key component for Amadeus in solving the crimes. “Sound of Noise” is a wonderful and inventive mix of creative visual and aural elements interwoven in a distinctive investigative comedic drama.
“Sound of Noise” is 102 minutes and Rated R. It opens Friday, March 9, in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Friday night at L.A.’s Cinefamily Theatre, there’s an opening party with the filmmakers. Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson who will do a Q&A session, and the Melvins drummers Dale Crover and Coady Willis will perform a live drum battle.
For other film reviews by Lori Huck, check out:
‘The Forgiveness of Blood’ Review: Archaic Melds With Modern in Albania
‘Take Shelter’ Film Review: A Haunting Premonition
Check out the “The Hunger Games” live red carpet premiere on March 12 only on Yahoo! Movies.