Day: December 16, 2012
Performance/Art: Sound of Noise
I played the violin for about seven years when I was younger, probably elementary and middle school ages. I ended up quitting, but nonetheless, I’ve always had an appreciation for music. That, added to my exposure to the show Stomp Out Loud, I think were good preparation for a film called Sound of Noise. Sound of Noise presents an array of ideas about art, music, ideas, and statements all in a fairly light package. That’s probably one of the best things about Sound of Noise: it captures all the beauty and complexity of music without being overbearing. It’s the perfect soundtrack.
Tone deaf police officer, or head of terrorist activities investigations (or something along those lines), Amadeus Warenberg, named for the iconic composer, plays second fiddle to his older brother, Oscar, a famous composer and conductor. During this interesting dynamic between his family, world renowned musicians, there is something very odd going on. A beat. Renegade percussionists are breaking into places (a hospital, a bank, etc.) and performing. And this stuff is illegal. Public disobedience or distraction or something? Regardless, as Amadeus comes closer to cracking the case as to who these Bonnie and Clyde of musicians are (although there are Six Drummers), he comes closer to finding the beauty in the Sound of Noise.
Somewhat ironically, slightly earlier in the week, there was a discussion about Joshua Bell. The famous violinist a few years went busking in a metro station and it took 7 hours and a paltry $32 before anyone recognized him. This led to a discussion of how we appreciate arts and such. Sound of Noise somehow beautifully distills that sort of conversation and asks similar questions as well. As much as our protagonist Amadeus grew up around music, nearly filling his younger life, he has grown to hate it. There’s an interesting subjective quality to certain areas of the film from the perspective of Amadeus. In certain scenes, when you should hear the ding of a metal tray, the knock against a wall, or the bark of a dog, there is nothing. The man is tone deaf, and this rather melancholic way of showing that is incredibly effective, and, thankfully, consistent throughout most of the film.
Through these renegade Six Drummers is written and performed a manifesto. This manifesto, performed on the streets and in very public places is like the immediate confrontation of an artistic statement. Like anything that Marina Abromovic’s The Artist is Present, the music as public statement adds an interesting, very real intrusiveness to it. But, if you are a member of most of the population, let’s face it, you probably think such artistic statements and manifestos are any of the following: silly, frivolous, inessential, ridiculous, overdone, and/or pretentious. One of the small beauties of the film is the ambiguity with which it treats the idea of “art as public forum”. There are moments when you are not quite sure whether or not the directors, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nisson, are praising the medium and function or satirizing it. It may be very well that they are doing both. It may be that they are saying, quite possibly, “Artistic statements are important, no matter how insane and unpredictable they are… but you don’t have to always go all out.” That being said, satire or praise, they do not seem to be condemning.
The music sequences are one of the best features of the film and, unsurprisingly, the thing that drew me most to the film. Creative, rather avant garde performance is the kind of thing I sort of love. As aforementioned, I love Stomp Out Loud, in which street dancers and musicians play on trash cans and the like. I love Blue Man Group, which, though less percussively based, is visually inventive and enticing nonetheless. So, a bit of a mix between the two (more the former than the latter) is sort of a performance art dream come true. These sequences are, in their, magical, majestic, and, most of all, fun. There is a wicked, warped sense of humor to them all, from “Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas in My Ass”, in which they hijack an anesthetized body and, uh, play music on him; “Money 4U Honey”, where the Six Drummers hold up a bank and proceed perform for the customers; and two other performances. And, like any good, piece of performance art, there’s always another layer of meaning. You could assert that “Doctor Doctor” is a criticism of health care and “Money 4U Honey” is about capitalism. You could make a number of assertions about the instruments that are used in each, their individual sounds, etc. But, the most important part is that these performances, as layered as they are, are just plain breathtaking. They are first and foremost the most entertaining scenes in cinema in a long time. These fun, beat-filled sequences made me, someone fairly cynical, feel giddy and kid-like with wonderment. Maybe that is the primary thesis of this film. That music, found anywhere in all locations at any time is wonderful. The whimsy, spontaneity and yet planned nature of it all is just thrilling.
The film sets itself up like a weird crime movie or heist film. The Six Drummers are led by two, Sanna and Magnus, the two leads portrayed by Sanna Persson and Magnus Borjeson. They round up the other four, and there’s an amusing amount of exposition involved. We do not entirely see the planning out of what is going to happen, but there’s a short and sweet montage of what will be the musical sequences. It’s like Ocean’s Eleven, but shorter, less expository, and with music. That’s a funny subversion I noticed in the film, and while the film is reliant on its musical center pieces, it plays itself like a funny heist movie, seemingly turning those tropes on their head. You have your mild character study of the guy who’s chasing after the “criminals”, your charismatic “criminals”, and the plan set into motion. Granted, the feeling is jarring at first, but the tone is light and humorous. It is honestly one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.
Sound of Noise’s best quality is that it presents all these ideas, assertions, opinions, and commentaries without the pretension that a lot of films privy to these subjects and techniques often have. It’s beautifully composed and constructed, with wonderful visuals. Most of all, its musical center pieces are simply astounding. However, its most winning and charming quality is its effortlessness. Sound of Noise shows that music can come from anywhere, and from anywhere it’s a wonder.
“Money 4U Honey” Clip