Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sound of Noise

Ruhe, Bitte!
" Ett, Två, Tre, Fyra "

What better way to celebrate Robert Moog's 78th birthday (well, besides the fun synthesizer sig on the Google site) than a look at this fascinating 2010 film, which is just making its way to local theaters in my area?

Sound of Noise is right in my wheel-house (or more appropriately) bass-trap, and is fun for anyone who might be "into" music, sampling, and sound design.  It, for certain, has my vote for best "sound design" of the films I've seen so far this year (despite the filmmakers using a lot of "sounds" that seem very familiar to me).

A product of Sweden (and released there in 2010), it involves artist-types (in this case, musicians, and more extremely, drummers) who've had it with a world being satiated and lulled with a steady stream of elevator music, whether in confined spaces, or piped onto the streets themselves.  "Listen to this city, contaminated with shitty music!" fumes Sanna Persson (played by...Sanna Persson), after she and her partner Magnus (played by Magnus Börjeson) perform a piece that gets them in dutch with the police.  That performance is to drive the van along the freeway while Magnus drums in the back and Sanna gears up and down through the van's transmission, driving over highway turtles, in effect playing a musique concrete piece...or should that be musique asphalt?  A subsequent police pursuit causes a crescendo into a local embassy, attracting the attention of city's anti-terrorist unit, and investigator Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson, in a terrific performance).

Warnebring has grown up in a musical family, steeped in the world, snooty with it, but for him, there was no interest.  His brother became a world-class (and arrogant) conductor, and Amadeus is the silent black sheep of the family and developed a severe dislike of music, in general, which has strained their relationships.   

But just because he isn't "musical," of note, doesn't mean he doesn't have gifts.  Despite the hustle-bustle of the embassy crash site, while the rest of the scene is speculating whether there's a bomb in the van, he recognizes a sound, and stealthily approaches the ticking van.  It's not an IED.  It's a metronome, still swaying with the beat, a reminder of his youth staring at the keys of a piano.

That proclivity for silence will come in good stead on this investigation.  For the musicians have composed a piece "for city and six drummers" in four parts that will wreak havoc on the city and disrupt life as we know it.  Gathering up four rebel drummers (are there any other kind?) Sanna and Magnus plan four performances that "might be dangerous, certainly illegal" for the group to perform, each using "found" sound and the materials at hand to pull off.

This is where the film really gets good...and clever.  Each performance (telling would be spoiling) is intricately planned and performed, each becoming simpler and more disruptive in its effects until it becomes personal for the detective, who is always just a step behind...until the third movement.  To explain further would be spoiling the surprises, and the enjoyment of the thing, but the film-makers are extraordinarily clever in the creation of the piece as a whole, working in a variety of media (including animation) to pull it off.

This is the sort of film-making that gives one hope, and although some CGI is employed (there had to be), it's of the seamless variety that doesn't over-stage, but merely supports the idea.  Sound of Noise is odd, wacky, and quite extraordinary, and rises above the static of most film-making being done today.

Sound of Noise is a Full-Price Ticket.

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