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Fantastic Fest 2010: Sound of Noise

Sound Of Noise
Directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson
Sweden / France  – 2010

Prior to the screening of Sound of Noise, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson’s 2001 short, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers was shown. You can, and should, watch it here, but the basics are these: musicians stake out an apartment and when the occupants leave they sneak in and perform music in every room, each piece tailored to the items in the room. The short is by all standard measures very silly, but, like the music within, the structure and dedication exhibited in the film elevate it above its simple, thin premise. That said, certainly nobody in their right mind would try to expand the idea to a feature.

Cut to 2010: Simonsson and Nilsson prep release of Sound of Noise, a film about a group of arty ne’er-do-wells who conspire to perform a musical piece titled “Music for One City and Six Drummers”. Their lone adversary is detective Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), a terrorism expert who was cruelly born tone-deaf into a family of musical prodigies. With as much familiarity with music as contempt for it, Warnebring is just the man to bring down these “musical terrorists”, but he also finds himself strangely drawn to the group’s leader, Sanna Persson (Sanna Persson). Noise follows Sanna as she and five other drummers begin performing their four-movement, city-wide, musical experiment, and Amadeus as he works to get a step ahead.

First and foremost, Sound of Noise is funny and massively entertaining. The film is not really the oddball thriller it has been described as. This is partly due to the fact that the stakes of the film aren’t revealed until very late in the game, and then they are specifically and exquisitely embedded within the characters. Noise isn’t structured around its cat-and-mouse chase or the detective’s search for redemption–it’s structured like the musical compositions featured within it. The first two acts of the film reveal nothing of Simonsson and Nilsson’s ambition, or even an intention to connect the characters and performances in any satisfying way. Instead, the film is largely concerned with slowly revealing and developing the rules of its fantasy world.  Naturally, this ultimately requires the patience and goodwill of the audience–but that’s easy if you find musicians performing a piece on an anesthetized man in a hospital room worthwhile in its own right.

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And those who do stick with the film will be rewarded as the final act kicks off with something much richer than a ticking bomb: that is, the beautiful collision of all of the film’s fantastical conceits. Every element–Sanna and co.’s delirious approach to musical performance, Amadeus’ complex relationship with music and his family’s success, the ambitious venue for the film’s central piece–combine for a tightly constructed, exhilarating climax. Then, as with an intricately composed piece of music, the joy of the film is in marveling as it unfolds.

Emmet Duff

Visit the official website for Fantastic Fest 2010