Monday With Mildred: “The Sound of Noise”

The Sound of Noise movie poster

The Sound of Noise

If someone asks you what this movie is about, tell them, “A renegade band of surly Swedish percussionists terrorize a city with their music.” Yeah, this is something completely different.

When I was young my dad asked me what musical instrument I wanted to learn. I said drums because I wanted to be Karen Carpenter, so he went out and bought me a clarinet. He actually did everyone a favor, because it quickly became clear I am not a musical person and I stopped traumatizing the neighborhood. So I totally sympathized with tone deaf Amadeus, a child who grows up in a family of musical titans. Even after he becomes a respected police inspector they look down their noses at him and laud his little brother the precocious symphony conductor. He loathes music. And he really hates musicians. When he quickly intuits that an assault on a patient in the operating room of a hospital was actually a band of musicians “playing” the room, and the patient, he chases them with a dogged persistence.

The band, assembled by ringleader Senna in an Ocean’s 11 style putting-the-band-together montage, also hates music but in a more “I hate traditional music” way than a “music has always made me miserable” way. She orchestrates the hospital “concert movement” and the increasingly larger and more bizarre ensuing movements like the bank, when they burst in wearing balaclavas and yell, “This is a gig! Listen and you won’t get hurt!” Then they “play” the bank. Sure, it’s a mostly black comedy, but there are a few great laugh out loud moments like that amidst many scenes of visual and aural humor.

Because it’s Sweden and not Norway, the speech is slow enough for a reader to keep up with the subtitles. Also because it’s Sweden, I couldn’t quite decide what decade this film is set in. The computers all look a little old, even for the early 21st century, the ties are a little wide, and the lack of cell phones is telling. The color was muted for the most part, and you won’t see any moments of scenic beauty in the urban setting.

That Amadeus quickly understands his sudden, instrument-specific audio amnesia and uses it to track down the rogue band is even ingenious than the idea of a terroristic band. That’s my very favorite aspect of the film. The premise is super clever, held up with a deftly plotted story that makes a lot of sense even as it gets more and more absurd. The filmmakers have such a strong handle on the plot that it never meanders and never seemed to be over the top ridiculous.

The characters were either actors with great rhythm or percussionists who are good actors. All of the fantastical music was great fun to hear and see. It might have been easy to sympathize with the band, but as the story unfolds you begin to realize these people are no angels. There is some violence, and some blood. I finally decided I didn’t like any of them as people, and this made it easier to think of them as real bad guys rather than misunderstood do-gooders.

I highly recommend seeing this movie, even if you’re musically challenged like me. Watch it on dvd so you can see the amazing extras, including more music in other settings.


Sound of Noise (2010) – Trailer (english subtitles)

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