Review: SOUND OF NOISE is Thoroughly Delightful
[With its limited U.S. theatrical release set to begin tomorrow, we revisit my review from Fantastic Fest 2010, where it deservedly won the Best Picture award.]
How can something so simple be so joyful? Maybe that's the key. Like Jackie Chan, the six drummers in Sound of Noise believe in using everyday objects to make mayhem. As one of them says in a recruiting pitch, "it's dangerous, it's illegal, and it will change the world."
If that quote's not quite accurate, it still captures the spirit of the Swedish-language film, directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson. They made a short film nine years ago, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, in which six people enter a stranger's apartment and make music out of whatever they find in each room. (Sample: toothbrushes, cleansing agents, towels, toilet seats, light switches, and so forth.) The short is played before the film, which, as good as it was, immediately raised the question of how a feature-length version would play.
Sound of Noise expands the idea exponentially. Magnus (Magnus Borgeson) has composed a symphony in four movements: "Music for One City and Six Drummers." His partner and fellow musician Sanna (Sanna Persson) takes the lead in making the arrangements and recruiting other drummers. This time the idea is to play in different settings throughout the city, ending in a giant crescendo that will surely make a giant statement to the musical establishment and to the entire city.
To give away the settings, or the found objects that they turn into musical instruments, would be stealing the fun, but suffice it to say that they are incredibly inventive and thoroughly delightful.
Framing the musical sequences is a story about Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), a tone-deaf policeman who was born into a musical family. Everyone else in the clan has some kind of musical ability; most notably, his younger brother Oscar is a famous orchestra conductor who has returned home for a big concert. Amadeus clearly is a bit resentful of all the attention that his little brother is receiving.
Beyond that, though, Amadeus feels out of place in his own family, and he seems to have developed a grudge against music in general. Oddly enough, that makes him the perfect detective to track down the renegade musicians, who have fallen under suspicion when one of them attacks a motorcycle cop. The suspicion that "musical terrorists" might be afoot is heightened when their first performance, involving a TV star, doesn't go exactly as planned.
There is one further complication: Amadeus begins to lose his sense of hearing in a very selective way. Certain sounds -- metal against metal, an individual's voice -- go silent on him. It's a mystery that will lead him to a surprising discovery.
Sound of Noise is not like any "musical comedy" you've seen. Sure, comparisons to Stomp are inevitable, but Sound of Noise has something slightly more subversive up its sleeve. It's a funny picture, yet with pauses for poignancy that hit the right note. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
In a word: joyful.
Sound of Noise opens in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle tomorrow, March 9, and will expand in limited release in the weeks to come. Check the Magnolia Pictures page for playdates and theatres.