Review: Sound of Noise


If you’re a musician, go see Sound of Noise. You don’t need to read this review, or any other for that matter. Just go see it. You’re going to find one of the most entertaining looks at experimental music and found object percussion you’ll be able to find outside of a Stomp concert. Except a lot smarter and catchier. Just stop reading. Go find a screening near you, and get on that. Thank me later.

For everyone else, it should be pretty clear that I’m a big fan of Sound of Noise. It’s an imperfect film, to be sure, but I defy you to find something quite as enjoyable as Sound of Noise in theaters right now. It’s a heist musical comedy like no other.

Sound of Noise
Directors: Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson
Rating: R
Release Date: March 9th (USA, limited)

Six drummers set out with a singular goal: to complete the greatest work of art of their careers: Music for one city and six drummers. The symphony is made up of four movements, each a spectacle of performance art in a different location with a different, wholly illegal premise. One, for instance, is set in a surgery room in a hospital, complete with an unconscious patient to be played on for accompaniment. The drummers find themselves doggedly pursued by detective Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), the tone-deaf black sheep of an accomplished musical family. Warnebring, understandably, has a deep hatred for music and wants only silence.

This film’s biggest issue, and it is a pretty big one, is a distinct lack of characterization. There’s essentially only one character with multiple facets or a real arc, and that’s Warnebring. Bengt Nilsson does some very solid work in humanizing the strange, angry detective whose life seems to get stranger and stranger as the drummer’s symphony continues, and his strength as a protagonist helps keep the film together. Other than that, characters are boring to interchangeable. The lone female drummer, Sanna (Sanna Persson), is the only drummer with a personality. Everyone else is just flat and underwritten.

It’s a shame, as each drummer is brought into the team with a separate, Ocean’s Eleven-style introduction scene. We get a notion of a personality and maybe even a specialty. The film never really taps into the promise here, and the drummers that aren’t Sanna fade into the background as, “the angry one, sort of,” or “the one that looks kinda like Michael Berryman,” or “that other one.” There was so much promise to have this quirky crew of musicians butting heads and bantering, but none of that potential is realized.

Fortunately, you’re not likely to notice the poor characterization for how enjoyable the film is. The musical set pieces are energetic, imaginative, and damn catchy. Every piece is crafted around a single area and theme, building in scale and insanity to the film’s conclusion, which literally plays the entire city as a musical instrument. A great array of musical styles and influences are on display here, and musicians and music theory students watching (I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO STOP READING) will enjoy possibly the only John Cage-inspired piece I’ll ever enjoy. The imagination doesn’t stop with the main set pieces. There’s a certain trait related to Warnebring’s tone deafness that pushes the film a bit into magical realism territory. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a clever device used very well by the filmmakers.

Sound of Noise is a celebration of the power of music and silence. It’s a staunchly anti-authority heist flick where nothing of material value is stolen at all. It’s a badass musical with something interesting to say about art and its meanings. It’s Ocean’s Eleven directed by the Blue Man Group. It’s some of the coolest filmmaking you’ll get to enjoy all year.