Fantastic Fest ’10 – Sound of Noise Review


Swedish musical is a weird amalgam of Stomp, Law and Order and a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film

Move over tween vampires and dragon tattoos, I may just have a new favorite Swedish film. Sound of Noise is a blissfully fun film about musical terrorists and the man who has vowed to put a stop to them.

In what could have been a painfully long viral video turned feature film, Sound of Noise instead manages to mix the trappings of a cop procedural with a plot that is as smile inducing as it is novel.

Sanna Persson plays Sanna, a perpetually grim-faced musician who views the world as one large drum set. Together with her team of drummers (Magnus Borjeson, Marcus Boij, Fredrik Myhr, Anders Vestergard and Johannes Bjork all seemingly playing variations of their own identities), the team embarks on their most ambitious project yet — a symphony in four parts that promises to change the world. Instead of heading to a recording studio, though, the “terrorists” take to public locals such as a hospital or a bank and turn everyday objects (and people) into musical instruments through various forms of percussion.

Like a crazed version of Stomp combined the advanced planning and perceived spontaneity of a flash mob, the musical team plans out their opus — named, appropriately, Music for One City and Six Drummers.

Bengt Nilsson plays Amadeus Warnebring, a cop assigned to Sweden’s anti-terrorist department who comes from a family renown for its musical ability. Unfortunately, Amadeus is completely lacking in the music department. Tone deaf from birth, Amadeus has acquired a deep-rooted hatred for all things music. This, naturally, provides him with an unquenchable drive to shut down the musical terrorists. From there, the plot gets a little wonky. How wonky? It seems Amadeus looses the ability to hear noise emitting from any object, animal or person the drummers have used for their musical movements.

If you were to combine the tense investigations of Law and Order: Broadway with the childlike wonderment of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, you’d have something close to resembling the weird dichotomy of Sound of Noise. You’d be missing the musical numbers, of course. Sound of Noise is a mostly lyric-free musical. As you might have guessed from the film’s plot, a good portion of Sound of Noise is dedicated to the performances from the drummer “terrorists.” The band’s noise is somewhat comparable to British electronic music duo Lemon Jelly’s work — a nice, funky beat. Each of the songs are performed using a variety of tools and instruments — everything from a respirator machine to a bulldozer to a series of power lines provide the harmonics for the drummers.

The charm of Sound of Noise rests almost completely on the shoulders of the film’s actors. The stars (especially the drummers) exert a thick charisma that slips audiences a mental roofie — placing them in a state of subdued anticipation, ready to have their pleasure sensors made sweet, sweet love to — whether they want it or not.

The eight drummers each have their own developed characteristics and back story — giving the film a weird Ocean’s Eleven vibe. Weird, but appropriate. Sound of Noise is just as much of a heist film — the target being wiping out and replacing the dreary and terrible music that permeates the Swedish countryside via periodically placed loudspeakers.

Unfortunately, the film is not without its faults. Sound of Noise falters a bit toward the end and audiences who, for one reason or another weren’t able to completely engage themselves in the film may find themselves squirming in their seats. After a lovely set-up and a couple of really engaging performances, though, the majority of audiences will be able to overlook the film’s stutters and spurts and enjoy the all-or-nothing climax.

If given the chance, also make sure you watch Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, the short film that acted as both a test run and prologue to Sound of Noise.

Sound of Noise will surprise you with its reach and aspiration. It’s not a small film by any stretch of the imagination. Everything from the music to the characters are larger than life — giving the film the sense of a half-remembered dream as seen through the eyes of David Milch. Sound of Noise is not a perfect film but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Directors: Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson
Notable Cast: Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson, Magnus Borjeson, Marcus Boij, Fredrik Myhr, Anders Vestergard, Johannes Bjork
Writers: Jim Birmant, Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjarne Nilsson

Tags: ,