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Featured DVD Review: Sound of Noise

June 25th, 2012

Sound of Noise - Buy from Amazon

Sound of Noise is a Swedish / French co-production that is based on a short film, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers. The Sound of Noise premiered at Cannes in 2010 and had a number of showings at film festivals here and there, but barely made a peep during its short theatrical run here. Now that is it out on DVD, does it deserve to do better? Or is it a movie that's a little too "art house" to find a mainstream audience?

The Movie

The movie begins by introducing Amadeus Warnebring, the son of a concert pianist and a conductor. His grandfather was a famous musician and his younger brother was a child prodigy. He, on the other hand, is tone-deaf. Being tone-deaf and surrounded by music in his family, he's grown to hate music. Instead of following in his family business, so to speak, he became a cop, which makes him the black sheep of the family.

We then meet Sanna Persson and Magnus during a brief run-in with a traffic cop. The pair are anarchists, musicians, and terrorists, of sorts. There are not interested in killing people, but in scaring them out of their complacency and show them the real power of music. To that end, Magnus has composed a work of music called, Music for One City and Six Drummers. Sanna considers it a true masterpiece, but they will need to recruit four more drummers: Johannes Bjork, a poet on the drums who has been reduced to playing cheesy music in a low-rent band; Marcus Haraldson, a high tech drummer nearly killed by one of his creations; Myran, who plays in an experimental band and is a little unstable; and finally Andres, the only one with a steady and legitimate job, even if Magnus and Sanna don't consider the philharmonic to be a legitimate job.

After Sanna and Magnus were chased by the motorcycle cop, they had to ditch their van, which is where Amadeus was brought in. At first, someone thought there might be a bomb in the van because they heard ticking. (They did crash in front of an embassy, so this isn't completely out of the question.) Instead, Amadeus discovers the noise was coming from a metronome. With that, he's pulled from the case. After all, if there's no bomb, it was just a simple traffic accident. However, he's convinced there's more and continues to investigate.

Amadeus gets his first break when the group of musicians, after some planning, perform the first movement from Music for One City and Six Drummers, entitled, Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas (In My Ass) . It involves the six drummers going into a hospital and ... Actually, I'm going to stop the plot synopsis there. I don't want to get into the film, because while Sound of Noise isn't a heist film per se, the way we see the group plan and carry out the first of their musical performances has a sort of heist feel to it and I don't want to spoil that.

Sound of Noise is above all a weird movie. How many police procedurals can you think of that involve musical terrorists? This was never going to be a hit in multiplexes; however, it should have found a larger audience in art houses. It has a unique premise and the execution is excellent. Bengt Nilsson plays Amadeus Warnebring and infuses his character with the right balance of strength and frailty. He is clearly a great cop and we see that when he is surrounding by his peers, but see him with his family as they talk about music and his confidence is gone and a mixture of discomfort and terror creep across his face. Likewise, Sanna Persson, the actress, plays the Sanna Persson, the character, as a much more complex person than first let on. The pair clearly have diametrically opposed goals, but have more things in common than the aspects that keep them apart. It is this character study that is the at the heart of the film and what makes it so great.

This isn't the only great part of the movie. The music and performance pieces are amazing, especially if you like music made with improvised instruments. I've seen the music compared to Stomp, which is a very quick and easy way to describe it. There are some downsides to the movie, including some aspects of the music performances. While they are cool to watch, they cause the narrative to grind to a halt. This is unavoidable, but might be an issue for some. Also, the film tends to be, and I don't want to use this word because it is so cliché to describe an Independent movie this way, but the movie is, "Quirky". This is both a positive, because it sets it apart, but also a negative, because at times it feels like its trying too hard to be unique. Finally, there are a couple coincidences or strange plot points that are a little hard to take. For instance, why does everything the group plays with suddenly turn silent for Amadeus? That said, overall the positives outweigh the negatives by a huge margin and it is absolutely worth checking out.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD begin with a featurette called, Making Doctor Doctor, which has the two directors, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, and one of the stars, Magnus Börjeson, talking about the making of the movie from the creation of the original musical number. It is very in-depth and energetic. The original short film, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, is also included on the DVD, as is the second short film, Music for One X-Mas and Six Drummers. Soundcard Stockholm is a one-minute performance with the six performers spread around the city each playing one part of the drum kit. There's a slideshow of still images from the movie. Next up is the complete video of Sanna Persson's school performance that got her kicked out. (You see a little bit of it in the movie.) Finally, there's Drum Battle: Preparing for the Challenge, which is a battle of the bands between the directors and the drummers.

The Verdict

Sound of Noise is a cool and unique movie and one that a lot more people should see. The DVD has a lot more extras than I thought it would and it is easily worth picking up over just renting.

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