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From the Wire: "Sound of Noise" Delights in Different Ways

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 8, 2012 at 4:12PM

In reviews of films with musical elements, it's usually either the tunes or the telling that get the primary consideration.
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When a film is riding a crest of positive feedback, it’s always intriguing to see how critics choose to make their individual waves. "Sound of Noise," the new film from the Swedish team of Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson tells the story of six drummers who try to level the foundations of their city (literally and figuratively) through sheer sonic power. It's getting some glowing reviews, but for different reasons. Some critics are praising the story for its subversion, whether of the cinematic or musical communities. Jesse Cataldo writes in Slant Magazine:

A still from "Sound of Noise."
A still from "Sound of Noise."

“Sound of Noise is ultimately winning because of its devilish anarchic streak, aiming its arrows at the stuffiness of the traditional musical establishment...The transgressive joy of their actions is aided by the fact that the film never grows mean spirited, sowing a mania for music and an extensive goodwill that, by the end, has expanded to envelop its increasingly sympathetic villain. The film may not know exactly what to do with its characters, but it at least shows them a healthy measure of respect.”

Meanwhile, Noah Lee concludes his Film Threat review by emphasizing that the music is just plain fun to behold:

“When music is at the center of a movie its important for it to excel and in 'Sound of Noise,' it does. Every session is a treat of varying rhythms, styles and sounds. For the musically inclined, this is a hard movie not to like. The premise is fresh and the execution is tight.”

Since blanketing a film with complete, unequivocal approval is never fully satisfying, one of these elements will simply pop out in a review more than another. “Once,” which like "Sound of Noise" has a considerable musical component, left some people more taken with the songs than the love story (and vice versa). Obviously, the musical practice of “utilizing...beds, vacuum cleaners and egg slicers, books, perfume bottles and lamp switches” (Lee’s description of the “Sound of Noise” crew’s tactics) is in a different universe from “Falling Slowly” or “Lies,” some of the best tracks from “Once.” But the enduring battle of music vs. story is an interesting tug-of-war in talking about the artistic success of these kinds of films, whether they take place in Sweden or Ireland or anywhere else outside of Europe. 

This article is related to: From the Wire, Sound of Noise, Once


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