Sound of Noise: Madcap, Joyous Experience

By Brock Wilbur · March 12, 2012

There is very little to say on the subject of Sound of Noise, as there is very little said in Sound of Noise.

The Swedish film by directors Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson was released in 2010, and just now makes its way to America. Thank goodness it has, because Sound of Noise is one of the most madcap, joyous cinema experiences imaginable, and I urge you all to track it down post-haste.

A group of six anarchist drummers plan to perform an original/illegal concept art piece entitled "Music for One City and Six Drummers," and the only man who can end their reign of musical terror is a tone-deaf police detective, who is also falling in love with their band leader.

Let's take a moment to appreciate that log-line. It's a talking unicorn away from being a Bjork wet dream. If she ever thinks about sex? Or sleeps?

In one of the opening sequences, we meet band leader Sanna Persson (Sanna Persson) who is driving a van with a metronome on the dash next to her, and a full drum set and drummer behind her. Magnus (Magnus Börjeson) accompanies her drive, building to raucous crescendos as she accelerates, simplifying to subtle vamps as she takes stricter control, soundtracking the inevitable police chase, and ending it by suddenly tossing the entire kit out the back of the truck at the pursuing motorcycle. It's a perfect introduction to the heightened stylized reality that Sound of Noise occupies so comfortably. 

The policeman/narrator is Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), whose disability is drawn to the forefront, due to every member of his family for generations being a famous musician. He, on the other hand, is physically pained by the presence of any music, and would vastly prefer a world of total silence. 

As Sanna aims to bring Magnus' masterwork to life, they enlist the additional four percussionists required, poaching them Blues Brothers style from the awkward day jobs: entertainment in a retirement village, experimental gay disco backing band, timpani in the philharmonic (where each piece contains exactly one note for the kettle drums to play), and in the case of the electronic drummer, recovery from a Tesla coil accident.

Their 24-hour performance involves raids on four distinct locations and the accompanying movements. "Doctor, Give Me Gas In My Ass" sets things in motion, as the kidnap a famous hospital patient and perform an operating room symphony, involving the electronic beeps of each device, knocking around tubes, hydraulics, pumps, knives, and even the attack the man's body. It was probably a poor decision to drop his heart rate to a steady 120 beats-per-minute for metronome purposes, because he nearly dies.

Amadeus arrives to these crime scenes with a mix of anticipations; both in the pursuit of his new romantic interest, but also the odd magic by which any object, or person, that this group performs music upon is forever rendered silent to him. Joyous selective muting. A wonderful respite for him from his nightly visits to family concertos, which can leave him decimated on the ground or even bleeding from the ears. But will he be driven mad by the terrible audio of the world around him, before he can save his city from "artistic salvation"?

Sound of Noise takes longer than it should to hit a stride, but it consistently escalates not only the fun quotient but the rapture of found music and impressive talent behind it. It seamlessly blends a narrative of terrorist crime spree with both weighty artistic endeavor but also a light touch. It's Heat if Val Kilmer were a graduate of Stomp!, going so far as to even include a scene where the band, in ski masks, breaks into a bank wielding their metronome as a weapon and shouting, "This is a gig!"

It's exactly the kind of movie that we stopped making in the late 90's, so I'm grateful someone outsourced it to Sweden. Sound of Noise is anything but, and a glee-inducing reminder of the power of both cinema and pure imagination, that culminates in my favorite cinematic moment of the year.

Go. Now. Find it.