Sometimes, a movie is so inventive, so unusual, so exciting, that you laugh at the pure audaciousness of what's happening on screen. As a story about a character, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson's Sound of Noise isn't as compelling as it ought to be, struggling to tie everything together, but the heart of the film consists of several of these transcendent moments, bursting with an enthusiastic creative energy that few movies muster during their entire running time.
Amadeus (Bengt Nilsson) is a police officer. His whole family, including his conductor brother Oscar (Sven Ahlström), is very musical, but Amadeus is tone-deaf, and as such, dislikes music. Already a bit of an outsider, Amadeus' situation takes a turn for the worse when a group of six renegade drummers begin wreaking a tuneful, rhythmic havoc on the city, leaving their calling-card metronomes, alarmed citizens -- and for Amadeus, unnatural silence -- in their wake.
Simonsson and Nilsson first worked with co-composer Magnus Börjeson and his band Six Drummers on a short film, called "Music For One Apartment and Six Drummers." The band, which consists of Börjeson, Sanna Persson, Marcus Boij, Fredrik Myhr, Anders Vestergård, and Johannes Björk, enters an apartment and makes music on whatever they can find, from an electric mixer to a toilet bowl. After another short ("Music For One X-Mas and Six Drummers"), the partnership expanded to feature length, and the result was Sound of Noise.
The four sequences in which the band performs for the unsuspecting city have a remarkable energy, propelled by the skill of the band, the visual flair of the directors, the careful timing of the editing, and most importantly, the music itself. Like the short films, Six Drummers find beauty in the insistent beeping of a heart monitor, or a coin pinging off a glass window. The first two bits, "Doctor, Doctor (Give Me Gas in My Ass)" and "Money 4 U Honey," are perfect music videos that I dare even the most jaded moviegoer to resist. Everyone also gets a good introduction: Börjeson and Persson burning rubber on the highway with a drum set in the back of a van, and the rest in a funny Ocean's Eleven riff that ends on a high note with Vestergård's frustration at the limitations of orchestral music.
The latter two numbers tie more closely into the plot, and are less successful thanks to Amadeus, a character that never quite fits in with the rest of the movie. We are meant to infer that he is lonely based on the way he looks at Sanna (the characters have the same first names as the performers), and that he hates music because he is tone deaf, but little of this information is presented from his perspective. How can such a sound-heavy film never directly illustrate what Amadeus' tone-deaf experience is like? Later, there is the matter of Amadeus' ultimate plan, which may solve the character's problem, but seems somehow sad. A tone-deaf cop chasing a gang of musical maniacs sounds like a funny concept, and without him, there's no story, but Amadeus is as much of a tuneless drag to the audience as he is to his family.
One of the posters for Sound of Noise gets a color and font overhaul for magnolia's DVD artwork. It looks nice, although further exploration of the disc reveals that some but not all of the art reflects a design style used by the band, which just makes the inconsistency confusing. The disc is packed into an eco-case (the kind with holes punched in it), and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
This standard-definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen looks decent for the majority of the film, but leaves much to be desired. Colors are accurate, but the picture is on the soft side, and a bit of aliasing can be seen. The biggest issue, though, is that much of the last third takes place at night, inside dark buildings, and even during a power outage, and black crush and artifacting become a problem, as well as the tiniest bit of posterization. If Sound of Noise ever gets a US Blu-Ray release, there's significant room for improvement.
On the other hand, the Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 track included here might just be the best standard-def audio track I've ever heard. It's totally unsurprising, given that this is a film where the sound mix is a huge part of the experience, and emphasis is placed on things like "pan" effects moving from left to right, but the audio on this disc just sounds fantastic. High bell sounds resonate. Deep bassy sounds have weight and depth. The music leaps off the screen and surrounds the viewer in the best way. If you told me part of the reason the picture looks the way it does is because a technician made the decision to take disc space away from the video for the audio, I would believe it. Even silence has an interesting atmosphere here. To my ears, this track is flawless. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
"The Making of 'Doctor, Doctor'" (23:19) is an interesting collision of audio commentary and featurette. Directors Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson and composer Magnus Börjeson sit down to chat about the time spent devising, composing, and shooting one of the film's best sequences.
"Music For One Apartment and Six Drummers" (9:56, 2.0 audio) and "Music For One X-Mas and Six Drummers" (5:19, 5.1 audio) are both included on the disc. The former is pretty self-explanatory, while the latter brings them to a rest home during the holidays, where they take advantage of the instruments provided by old people (like knitting needles and bingo cards).
Soundcard Stockholm (1:09) seems like some sort of promo...for what, I don't know, but it's very short. Sound of Noise Slideshow (4:55) is pretty self-explanatory. "Water Analysis [Part III]" (5:20) is a clip from the world of the film itself, as seen on a video tape that Amadeus gets from Sanna's music teacher. The disc concludes with a bizarre clip called "Drum Battle: Preparing For the Challenge" (5:53), which sets up a battle between one of the Six Drummers and one of the directors, but lacks the payoff.
Trailers for God Bless America, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Marley, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and a promo for HDNet play before the main menu, and are selectable from the special features menu. No trailer for Sound of Noise is included.
Although Amadeus is a bummer, Sound of Noise is a must-see (must-hear?) explosion of movie magic. The disc features decent extras, OK video, and absolutely perfect audio. Recommended.
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