A heavy metal drummer goes deaf in this heartfelt ‘finding thyself’-type film headlined by a standout performance from Riz Ahmed, and featuring innovative use of sound that is true to its subject matter.
Dir. Darius Marder
2019 | USA | Drama | 120 mins | 2.39:1 | English, American Sign Language & French
NC16 (passed clean) for language throughout and brief nude images
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci
Plot: A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing.
Awards: Nom. for 6 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound; Nom. for Platform Prize (Toronto)
International Sales: Protagonist Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate – Hearing Loss
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: The Projector
I had gone deaf before not too long ago. Fortunately, it was only in one ear, and temporary. But for two of the longest days ever, I led a life with sounds only coming into one ear, and my word, it was a very distressing experience, like a stereo sound mix gone horribly wrong.
As such, watching—and listening—to Sound of Metal felt closer to home for me than expected.
A film about a heavy metal drummer who goes deaf and must contemplate a new, much quieter life, Sound of Metal is heartfelt, resonating filmmaking centred on a standout lead performance by Riz Ahmed, who is deservingly nominated for an Oscar.
One might find the film’s narrative beats familiar, and for a ‘finding thyself’-type picture, it doesn’t deviate much from what has come before.
However, Sound of Metal does have a very unique feature—its treatment of sound, innovatively conceived and very much depicted as true to its subject matter as possible, is a revelation.
“As you know, everybody here shares in the belief that being deaf is not a handicap. Not something to fix.”
The filmmakers creatively and empathetically play with a range of sound types and qualities throughout the film, from airy muffled sounds to extreme silences to high-pitched distorted noises.
It is an uncommon work that draws the viewer into the headspace of its protagonist not just through storytelling but from the sounds (or lack thereof) that he absorbs.
One could feel that the film’s sound design operates more physiologically than artistically, and in this regard, it proves to be a fascinating experience.
As an Oscar Best Picture nominee, it won’t win the big prize but remains a decent contender. Do look out for a non-showy but affecting turn by Paul Raci (who’s also Oscar-nominated), playing a deaf man who offers nothing but hope and positive thinking.