Indie Roundup: ‘Sound of Noise’

Early on in Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson’s debut feature, “Sound of Noise,” we see Sanna (Sanna Persson) blazing down the freeway in a beat-up van, her eyes furtively glancing at the rearview mirror like a crook speeding away from a crime. Accompanying the scene is a propulsive drum track, exactly the sort of score you’d expect in a caper drama. Then the camera pans over to reveal a guy bashing away at a drum set in the back of the van. It’s a great visual gag, and it sets up much of the subversive humor that follows. The duo’s aim, it turns out, is not precisely criminal but definitely perverse; they are creating music using the van’s gear shifts and its swerves over rumble stripes. And when a traffic cop tries to pull them over, the drummer Magnus (Magnus Borjeson), enraged that the police siren ruined his piece, chucks his drum set at the cop.

Magnus, however, has bigger plans, a score that he calls “Music for 6 Drummers and a City.” As Sanna gathers together a band of fellow radical percussionists, they plan a four-movement piece that is one part music performance and one part terrorist act. The first movement is played in a hospital operating room, beating out rhythms on the various machines that go “bing” and on the bloated, yet remarkably sonorous, belly of a sedated television personality.

[Indie Roundup: ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’]

“Sound of Noise” is at its best when it lets its anarchist freak flag fly. The performance in the hospital and a subsequent one in a bank, which includes the shredding of bank notes, are hilarious. Sanna and company’s utter distain for money, propriety, the law and, most of all, canonized music is contagiously fun. At one point, Sanna complains that “the city is filled with crap music.” She spits out that invective as Che Guevara would about a capitalist landlord.

The movie loses steam when it focuses on Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), a tone-deaf music-hating cop who is the black sheep in a family of accomplished musicians. Obsessed with stopping Sanna and company, he has some deep-seated childhood trauma involving metronomes, the renegade drummers’ calling card. And when Warnebring’s story overshadows the drummers’ at the film’s finale, the movie loses its rhythm and stumbles, giving the audience an ending that’s much too safe for its revolutionary promise. In spite of that, “Sound of Noise” is a fun, sly, and surprisingly good-natured comedy about the subversiveness of art.

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March 2012

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