SFIFF54: Innovative ‘Sound of Noise’ is a new kind of musical comedy

Six drummers plot to take over a city in four musical movements in Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson's feature 'Sound of Noise.'

Terrorism is a scary word in this day and age, but if it’s in the form of unconventional music, is it really that bad? The answer is no, unless you’re the policeman in charge of finding and putting the lid on them in the unbelievably funny and genre-bending Swedish film, Sound of Noise.

Directors Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nillson’s 2001 short film Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers was very well-received in the film festival circuit and featured six drummers launching a rebellious musical attack, in four movements named after different rooms and using everyday household objects. In the lengthier Sound of Noise, the same six drummers—led by Sanna and Magnus with Marcus, Myran, Anders, and Johannes (All the characters are named after their actors)—go bigger in their opus, Music for One City and Six Drummers. However, a threat to the practice of their eccentric art comes in the form of authority: Meet Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), head of the police department’s antiterrorist unit. Ironically, Warnebring, the brother of a world-famous composer (Sven Ahlström) and related to many others, is tone-deaf and despises music, so cracking the case of the Six Drummers poses an incredible challenge for him—moreso when he realizes his love for Sanna.

Like in the short film by the directors, the core of Sounds of Noise is presented in four movements, which are wacky, quirky, and downright ridiculous (though delightfully) in titles, settings, and presentations: “Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas (In My Ass),” “Money 4U, Honey,” “Fuck the Music, Kill! Kill!,” and “Electric Love.” Each of the titles provides a clue to which institution the drummers will hit, as Warnebring attempts to decipher. “Doctor, Doctor” utilizes the body of a hemorrhoid-plagued TV personality and hospital equipment in an operating room. In “Money 4U, Honey,” the drummers wear black balaclavas and hold up a bank, shredding papers and currency, running fingers on keyboards and calculators, and using rubber stamps. “Fuck the Music” depicts a turning point in the plot as Oscar Warnebring’s concert is interrupted by machinery outside—of course, operated by the rebel musicians. And last but not least, “Electric Love” is performed dangerously on the city’s electrical wires, providing a very memorable and visually stunning grand finale.

While there are some moments that go unexplained and others are too fluffy, the overall tone of the film is energetic, ear-popping, and extremely entertaining. Exploring the backstories of Warnebring and his family, as well as the “musical terrorists,” could have been left out, but leaving them in isn’t a mistake. Instead, it delivers more joy and laughter than the film already brings, and gives each character a depth that isn’t too serious and is simply amusing. All of the characters are so hilarious and likable that it’s tough to decide who to side with. The percussionists are creative and fearless in their artistic expressions and work well as a team despite their distinctive beginnings. But despite Warnebring’s prestigious position and preference for silence, he comes off as a nice guy that is only perhaps still trying to break free from his musically talented family’s shadow. Then there are his feelings for Sanna and a hope that she may make him see the light—and bittersweet, she does.

But above the sympathy regarding Warnebring’s background and the small love story between him and Sanna, and also any political interpretations that could be made (Co-director Nilsson said in Thursday’s Q&A that the film was made with no political message in mind, but is a layered film and could be looked at with one by the viewer), Sound of Noise simply makes for a wildly fun cinema experience. The sound design, editing, and cinematography is some of the best not just in foreign film, but can also rival those in American movies. Mixed with a classic crime story, it reinvents it by introducing a new breed of fictional criminals, and what these criminals do is offer a unique sound to dually cause chaos and light up a city. And mixed with genuine, gut-busting humor, a new kind of music helps carry this defiant and brilliant comic caper.

OVERALL: 8.5/10

Sound of Noise‘ will have its next showing at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema tonight (Friday, April 29th) at 9PM.

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