Flixclusive Interview: The directors of Sound of Noise


Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nillson have directed probably the most fun film to arrive on the silver screen this year. Sound of Noise is a semi-musical, semi-performance art piece, semi-comedy about a group of drummers that play out their masterpiece through an unsuspecting city, staging elaborate musical numbers with found objects anywhere from in a hospital, with an unconscious patient as a part of the music, to the very power grid of a major city. If that seems weird, yeah, it is. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, has some great music and possibly the best use of silence in music I’ve heard in a while.

I had the chance to talk to these two directors about the film, their musical influences, and breaking out into the feature film business. Check it out after the jump!

The film, in a way, started out with your short film “Music for one apartment and six drummers.” What inspired you to continue the story of those six characters.

Ola Simonsson: We had to know more about them, and we had to know what would happen if we dropped them down in the big city or dropped them down in a feature film script. We made the short film ten years ago, and after that we made a lot of concepts with these drummers playing on objects. Over time, we had new ideas for new musical scenes, and we had kind of a bank of very interesting music pieces. In the end, we just had to do it. I think when we had completed the short, we had no desire whatsoever  to bring that into feature. We had moved onto other projects as well. But like I said, these musical challenges kept coming, and I think that grew on us. We just had to think bigger and see if it was possible. When we work, I think that’s what happens. Some ideas, some thoughts you just can’t shake off, and you end up just doing it, in a way. I think we had to be very stubborn and determined to complete this project because it was incredibly complicated and challenging.

Johannes Stjärne Nillson: And a very large scale. When it came to the music and the sounds, it was a large scale sound experiment where we had our visions pretty clear, but these visions had to meet reality, so not all visions could be turned into film, this time.

Would you say the movie is more of an experiment in music or in filmmaking?

O: Oh, go ahead, Johannes.

J: No, you. I don’t have a good answer. You must have a better one.

O: I was just going to say that we’ve taken the liberty to do as we wish and mix genres and mix action with suspense and music and humor, we just threw it all in there quite deliberately. That’s the way we’ve been working for all times, and the big challenge here was how would this approach meet the feature world. Of course, we’ve got a lot more freedom in the short film world and the festival world, but we’re quite surprised with how this film and this concept has been embraced by people all over, actually. We’ve been travelling a lot with the film, to festivals and some of the territories that have launched it, and it’s very satisfying to see it fill that need for something different. It’s something that you can relate to and recognize and feel secure with and laugh at and you have fun with it, but still it doesn’t really look like anything else.

J: I read somewhere a journalist, he tried to describe it as Rififi meets Blues Brothers and says hello to Hitchcock along the way.

What are some of your musical influence, with this style of music/performance art/aural terrorism, in a way?

O: When we collected all the sounds, all these sounds we had had to lead the way. Sometimes, we wanted to go in a different direction, but the sounds told us to get where we wanted with the feeling of the music. I remember when we worked with the hospital song, we listened a lot to Wham!. We wanted to have that disco kind of warm, the funky disco. Then, all the sounds we got from the hospital were quite cold and sterile, so we had to move in another direction, and it was better, I think. We wanted to make the base for this. It is pop music, and we’re happy if you could play this on a dance floor.

J: We also wanted to be brave and push the boundaries a bit and, composed in the film and also in reality, Magnus [Börjeson, composer and co-star], in the film he’s a big conceptualist, and he really wants to do something both spectacular and new, and when we worked in that direction, we, of course, we inspired a lot by John Cage, not only for his way at looking at music and very free spirit, but also his way of making note sheets.

You can definitely see that when you actually get to see the sheet music.

J: We wanted to achieve some kind of similar freedom, at least give that signal “This is where we want to go.” And in the end we find it to be very satisfying that the policeman turns out to be the biggest conceptualist of them all. He actually makes music out of silence, and that was an idea we had for a long time. We wanted to see if it would be possible to go that far. It is actually a musical piece made out of silence. It’s a combination of inventing a story that works and that is good, but also satisfying our own needs and our own curiosity, really.

You can see that that final piece is pretty heavily influenced by Cage’s 4’33, and while that’s my least favorite piece of his, you guys made the concept exciting and pretty hilarious, really.

J: Yeah, at first, it’s a challenge. Regardless of what we do, we want to have the humor there. We still, of course, want to be serious and we don’t want to bring down the concept by laughing to hard. I would love to show it to John Cage. He didn’t mind humor, even if he was very serious. It’s funny, though, when we wrote that scene, 4’33 wasn’t in our minds. These two worlds met each other, and now it’s a very obvious connection, but I don’t mind that at all.

What’s next for you guys? Are you going to make another feature, go back and do some smaller festival stuff?

O: First, we’re developing a performance with the drummers. We have a show, a performance with them, and we’d like to do a longer one with them. Maybe this summer, we can have one that we could go on a small tour with.

That sounds amazing!

O: Yes, it would be very nice to do that. We use the sounds from the film, some of the soundtrack from of the film, and we play with a lot of drum kits and a DJ. Then, we are developing new scripts for coming features films.

Anything in particular you can talk about?

O: The problem with our ideas is they sound very strange. One of them is about a man who is desperately trying to escape from himself, and I cannot tell you more.

Hell, I’d go to see that based on that one line.