Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sound of Noise

There's a potential hazard in making a film about the making some other art form, that it may be too much of one or not enough of the other, either the art-making or the movie a flimsy excuse for the other. Riding the wave of that special relationship between film and music, however, Sound of Noise records the extraordinary performances and sound-making of a group of six drummers, within enough fictional narrative and food for musical thought to lift their endeavour to inspired – and hugely entertaining – absurdity.

The whole film is shot through with a deadpan wit from the elegiac opening, a montage introduction to the eminent musical family of the narrator, a cop born tone-deaf and with a deep-seated dislike of music. Following such clues as the serial number of a totemic metronome, he pursues a group of “musical terrorists” as they stage a piece entitled “Music for One City and Six Drummers”.

In what cause they terrorize is not specified, although the core pair get a great introduction to their musical madness, before crashing a van into the gates of the German embassy. Four more drummers amusingly recruited and they begin. Their performances of the four movements of the piece – or Attacks – employ politically and socially charged elements, but they’re just as much in it for the joy of the music.

The attacks are amazing, employing nothing like a conventional musical or percussive instrument, from the beeps of a surgery theater monitoring machine, to the thudding and scraping of giant diggers, or the heavy clang of a beater on a pylon wire. The film-makers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Sjärne Nilsson have been working with the drummers for over ten years, since a remarkable 2001 short, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, and their ambitions have grown to glorious proportions. Sounds were meticulously sourced, and audio and video editing are exceptionally deft, in conjuring the sense of a perfect live performance. Part of the appeal – and impressive effect – are the tangled logistics of performing such pieces; that we see no rehearsals lends the musicians a semi-mystical aura.

The drummers are amusingly drawn into types, deftly defined, and Bengt Nilsson as cop Amadeus Warnebring, brings subtle emotion to his role, from the way he wraps his mouth around the pronunciation of his name, with the disdain of denied self-pity; to the film-makers’ gag about funk bass, which he transforms into a bubble of vulnerability. He manages too to pull off an odd element of magic realism, when it becomes clear he can no longer hear objects on which the group has played. This unexplained quirk is another pleasant mystery, however, to engineer a neat conclusion, and offset the easy way in which the film glides over the divisions between sound and music, sound and silence.

As much as it may sound off-puttingly avant-garde, the whole musical project is thrillingly easy on the ear, driven by fantastic rhythms, fantastic sounds, and the palpable dedication of the performers. Not only do Simonsson and Nilsson do the musicians proud, but neither do they put a foot wrong as film-makers either. They capture a remarkable sense of the daring, absurdity, and excitement of going for something crazy all out, because that’s just what they’ve done themselves, with tremendous results. It’s also very funny.

d/sc Ola Simonsson, Johannes Sjärne Nilsson p Christophe Audeguis, Jim Brimant, Olivier Guerpillon, Guy Péchard ph Charlotta Tengroth ed Stefan Sundlöf, Andreas Johnsson Hay pd Cecilia Sterna s Nicolas Becker, Lasse Liljeholm m Magnus Börjeson and Six Drummers, Fred Avril cast Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson Halapi, Magnus Börjeson, Johannes Björk, Frederik Myhr, Marcus Haraldson Boij, Anders Vestergård, Sven Ahlstrom
(2010, Swe, Fr, 102m)
posted by tom newth at

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