Thursday, June 9, 2011

SIFF — Sound of Noise

Sound of Noise
Sweden, 2010
Official website

"This is a gig! Listen and no one will get hurt!"

One of my "must see" festival favorites, although not quite an unqualified one.

A band of musician "terrorists" strike out to save their city from the "contamination of shitty music," notably the happy-whistling muzak piped everywhere through ubiquitous white speakers. They execute their city-wide four-movement Music for One City and Six Drummers with the stealthy intrigue of an Oceans 11 operation. By staging elaborate and dangerous guerrilla public performances, they make their point not with bombs or guns but with anarcho-flash-jam concerts created on the spot using whatever "instruments" happen to be nearby. Their first movement, a medico-rave piece in a hospital, uses a celebrity-patient prepped for hemorrhoid surgery as a precision-pitched drum — that is, until he flatlines, after which the defibrillator paddles provide their own new rhythm.

Tracking down the perps is a hangdog police detective (Bengt Nilsson) who is so profoundly tone-deaf that music is physically and mentally painful to him, the result of his ugly-duckling upbringing in a family of musical prodigies. (His parents named him Amadeus, and his brother is a renowned symphony conductor.) So naturally he's the right man for the investigations. "They're musicians, and they will strike again," he says as his colleagues scoff. Naturally, cracking the case becomes an increasingly, and painfully, personal experience. Amadeus' unexpected sort-of romance with the gang's lovely female leader (Sanna Persson) leads to a sort-of salvation for him, though not in the way I expected.

While Sound of Noise avoided the pat resolution I anticipated, the ending still fell flat for me. It works fine on a story level, but dramatically it lacks a good solid punch. As the film drives forward it becomes less about the musicians and their mission, and more (ultimately entirely) about Amadeus and his more intimate, less percussive needs. The narrative doesn't so much arc as narrow, like air moving through a tuba in the wrong direction. That said, the means by which Amadeus takes charge of getting those needs met is inspired.

Sound of Noise is catchy and bright, a film I recommend without hesitation even if it doesn't quite maintain its full allegro pulse.