Film drama "Sound of metal": Beyond Silence

An explosion of noise and sweat opens this up Movie. Drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) hits his drums, his wiry, tattooed body is transformed into a perfect music machine. A little further up the stage, the same thing happens with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on the electric guitar. The two play in a wild trance, the audience of the small club in the American hinterland rages.

Together Lou and Ruben form the duo Blackgammon. For the band in “Sound of Metal” (available on Amazon), the filmmakers have come from the real duo Jucifer take inspiration from Georgia, which operates a subgenre of metal: “Sludgecore”. Connoisseurs would say a spicy mix of hardcore punk and doom metal. For the film, however, it is enough to know completely: It is very, very loud what Lou and Ruben are beating out of their instruments.

Their volume corresponds to the internal pressure that they need to get rid of. Ruben is a former junkie, away from heroin for four years, but of course still at risk of relapse for life. “Please Kill Me” is one of the many tattoos on his chest. Lou also seems to have suffered a good deal of suffering, the many borderline scars on her arms at least suggest that.

At the beginning of the film, however, the two seem to have managed to transfer all the depression and aggression into their music. In their huge silver mobile home, with which they pilgrimage through the country and from club to club, on a kind of neverending tour, they drink green smoothies for breakfast and love each other. The fact that they are a couple not only professionally but also privately seems to have a stabilizing effect. Then comes the emotional slump that they feared, which could lead to relapse into old behavior.

When they set up their merchandising booth in the next club and talk to the other metalheads who are performing that evening, after the loud beginning it suddenly becomes very quiet in this film. Ruben to his ear, almost surprised. The chatter of colleagues, the rustling of the boxes with the band shirts, the sound check on the stage, the clink of the bottles at the bar – all gone.

A panic visit to the doctor follows. Ruben has lost almost all of his hearing, becomes almost deaf, irreversible. He, of all people, who needs his music, the noise, not just to live but to survive.

Director Darius Marder, who has so far made a name for himself primarily as a screenwriter – among other things through “The Place Beyond The Pines” with Ryan Gosling – knew that the soundtrack would be a challenge in this film. That’s why he got the help of the French composer and sound tinkerer Nicolas Becker, who has already designed the sound concepts for “Gravity” and “Arrival” in Hollywood. Together they create the majority of the film from Rubens’ sound perspective. This gives the story, which dramaturgically tends to take the path of conventional drama, an oppressive additional dimension.

The world sounds metallic and flawed, but medicine can do no more for him

Because Lou is afraid that her boyfriend might get the idea of drugging himself with heroin again due to the hearing loss, she takes him to a therapy group in the country. It is run by the Vietnam veteran Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing in the war, became an alcoholic, found help and therefore devotes himself to addiction help for the hearing impaired.

Ruben doesn’t feel like it at first. He does not want to realize that he will get used to a new life, sign language will have to be learned. And that his life as a musician is over in its previous form.

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Again and again he bypasses the rules of the group, tries to get his old life back. After all, he sells all of his equipment and the tour caravan in order to be able to afford the operation for a cochlear implant, a hearing prosthesis. What he can hear afterwards, however, is not what he wanted to hear, and the audience hears it through the soundtrack of the film with him: His world sounds like a strange echo, a feedback – metallic, incomplete, faulty. Conventional medicine cannot do more for him, even if he cannot believe it.

The Briton Riz Ahmed plays Ruben. The 38-year-old has been filming in Hollywood for a long time and has appeared in “Star Wars: Rogue One” and “Nightcrawler”, among others. “Sound of Metal” should mean the final breakthrough for him. Many industry magazines are already celebrating Ahmed for his portrayal of the desperate drummer as a potential big winner in the upcoming award season, from the Golden Globes to the Oscars.

In fact, he could have a very good chance there. Because it has been a long time since it was so overwhelming to see in a film that humans are maximally tragic creatures. Because he is willing to increase his suffering just to not have to admit what he will still never be able to change.

Sound of Metal, USA 2019 – Director: Darius Marder. Book: Abraham and Darius Marder. Camera: DaniĆ«l Bouquet. Music: Nicolas Becker. With: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci. Amazon, 120 minutes.

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