‘The Sound of Noise’ Needs More Music, Less Silence

by Eliana Parnas, University of Iowa

When my boyfriend first suggested we see a movie called The Sound of Noise at our local, student-run movie theater, I audibly scoffed. I imagined a movie whose content was as seemingly redundant as its title. However, after showing me the trailer on his phone (whose internet capabilities far exceed those of my T-Mobile free upgrade), John had me “abso-freakin’ pumped!” for a night of musical terrorism served up Swedish style.

Yes, from our beloved Sweden which, unbeknownst to super-square me, is one of the world’s largest exporters of pop and rock music, comes The Sound of Noise, the world’s first “musical crime comedy.” Two expatriates of the local music academy, Sanna and her friend Magnus, perform his ingenious composition, “Music for One City and Six Drummers” in four breathtaking movements: “Doctor! Doctor! Gimme Gas in My Ass,” “Money 4 U Honey,” “Fuck the Music! Kill! Kill!” and “Electric Love.” Of course, four of their Etch-a-Sketch percussionist friends assist them in taking over their hometown (an unnamed Swedish metropolis).

For Amadeus Warnebring, head of the city’s terrorism squad and tone-deaf loner in a family of musicians, no worse crime could be committed. So when Sanna and her friends begin terrorizing hospital patients, bank tellers, and symphony-goers with in-situ rock concerts, Warnebring goes nearly insane in his quest for quiet. Dreaming of the days when his greatest threat was a ticking bomb (as opposed to a metronome), he smashes a number of instruments to pieces as the police round up countless vagrant musicians in the hope of catching their elusive culprits.

My expertise in foreign films is limited. In fact, I would describe myself as a devoted patron rather than a learned scholar. However, I have way more street cred in the area of percussion than film since my own flesh-and-blood uncle attended Juilliard as a percussion student, and I myself am a decade-long student of tap. I was never the best in my class. I quit a couple years ago. But I have not so secretly continued my lessons on the streets and sidewalks of the University of Iowa’s campus.

Thus it was an unparalleled viewing pleasure to see four innovative percussion pieces on-screen while layering on my own “beat-with-my-feet.” Pretty sure everyone else thought it was pretty cool too. Unfortunately, as a film, The Sound of Noise was not as stellar. Remember, there were only four pieces of music, totalling a mere fifteen minutes of the hour-and-a-half long movie. The rest was a hasty stitching together of negligible events to give the music a storyline to rest on. There was even a love interest between Warnebring and Sanna which, you guessed it, ended in a kiss and nothing more. Sigh.

Honestly, this movie could have been a short film. In fact, it was, way back in 2001 when directors Ola Simonssen and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson created their shortie based on Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo’s 1913 manifesto, “The Art of Noises.” But the concept is so cool, and the music is so fun, I’m willing to eat the entire “feature-length-film” sandwich in order to get to the heart of The Sound of Noise–super neat-o music. Loftier film critics than I might say that this film is no work of art, but for me at least, it was the musical equivalent of a Bergman landscape. Except in place of that symphony of textured silence, think “death metal.”

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Filed under Eliana P., Film, Reviews, University of Iowa

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