Deafening silence in “Sound of Metal”
Prime takes a risk with Darious Marder’s slow burner “Sound of Metal.”
When you dedicate your entire life to something it would be difficult to change and learn something new. As we get older, our capacity to learn new things seems to fade away. When one door closes, another one is hard to walk through with bones so brittle through age. For Ruben Stone — played by Riz Ahmed — walking through that open door might be his only option.
“The Sound of Metal,” starring Riz Ahmed, follows the life of a drummer in a metal band and depicts his emotional journey of acceptance and stillness as his hearing deteriorates. “The Sound of Metal,” as reflective as it is, proves to be one of the best movies to come out at the tail end of 2020.
The film opens with a blaring punk-metal number that features blasting breakneck drum kicks and rhythms followed by screaming female vocals. This establishes the band that the main character, Ruben Stone, is in. While touring and traveling from one place to the next, we also meet the lead singer of the duo — played by Olivia Cooke — who happens to be Stone’s girlfriend, Lou.
However, as Ruben begins to lose his hearing, they come to the realization that their intense music can’t last forever. Distraught and horrified by the fact that he might face a life of complete silence, he seeks the help of a deaf community run by a man named Joe, played by Paul Raci. This is the beginning of his journey of conflicted emotions while seeking peace and complicity in his new life. Ultimately, he ends up paying for cochlear surgery that allows him to hear again, but it’s not exactly what he was expecting.
In certain aspects, this movie takes inspiration from Darius Marder’s last project that he wrote titled “Place Beyond The Pines,” which featured Ryan Gosling playing a troubled tattooed and bleach-blond protagonist that was strapped for cash. However, that’s where the comparisons end, as Ruben is a complex character who is blindsided by his need to be able to hear again. This complexity opens up opportunities for the movie to portray its themes through exceedingly emotional means.
What helps these scenes achieve their emotional prowess is how well depicted each character is. Riz Ahmed does an incredible job portraying each complex emotion that comes with the loss of something as tremendous as hearing. He depicts his journey through each stage of grief so intensely, it’s as if the actor himself is losing his hearing. Paul Raci plays Joe, the director of the deaf community, and provides a performance reminiscent of a professor that just gave you an F on your last homework assignment. Not angry, just disappointed.
The emotional and reflective impact of the film is further depicted through beautiful and far still shots of nature that prompt the viewer to hang back and reflect on each scene while joining Ruben’s journey in a way that feels non-judgemental.
These scenes are also accompanied by innovative uses of sound. Ruben is plagued by his hearing loss which allows the filmmakers to experiment with different ways to convey Ruben’s experience through sound, or lack thereof.
Whether it’s through muffled noises that resonate alienation from the world, much like the feelings of Ruben throughout his journey, or the metallic chaotic and clashing noises that come after Ruben gets his implants that makes you long for the peacefulness of silence. The film strategically places the viewer into Ruben’s shoes.
While this film is very reflective and allows for the viewer to breathe between each emotion with meditative and peaceful scenes, they can also make the movie drag on for a bit longer than they should.
Productive scenes that open up opportunities to provide either more backstory or moments of character development could have taken the place of these small scenes. Instead, the movie wastes some of its run time and viewers might be left feeling deprived of active or constructive scenes for a while.
“Sound of Metal” is a visceral emotional movie that will tug at the heartstrings. It will send viewers on a mesmerizing journey that will last after the credits start rolling. If you’re looking for a fast-paced movie with little to no downtime then you should probably skip this one. However, if you’re looking for a slow burning film that is filled with complex emotions and great sound design then “Sound of Metal” is for you.
Availability : Streaming now on Amazon Prime
Title: Sound of Metal
Star Rating: Four and a half stars out of five
- Beautiful still shots
- Great use of limited sound
- Characters are emotional and passionately portrayed
- Avoids movie tropes
- Film can drag on at some points
- More gripping scenes could have taken place in the slower parts
- Missed opportunities for more backstory on characters