IronWatcher’s review published on Letterboxd:
Watched on Amazon Prime
The sound design of big blockbusters is often - and rightly so - celebrated. But this year, my imaginary "IronWatcher-Award" for the best sound design does not go to an effect-rich spectacle, but to the drama "Sound of Metal", the feature film debut of director Darius Marder who also co-wrote "The Place Beyond The Pines". In this film metal drummer Ruben suddenly loses his hearing. This is the beginning of Ruben's character journey, who must learn and above all accept that his life has changed forever.
The sounds of the world degenerate into muffled echoes. Along with this, the ex-junkie is overcome with despair and anger, which soon cannot be alleviated by his girlfriend Lulu (always extraordinary, but here as a metal singer, screaming her lungs out and later singing chanson, just wow: Olivia Cooke). Ruben needs help and goes - more involuntarily - to an institution run by alcoholic Joe (Paul Raci), who lost his hearing in the Vietnam war. What follows is clear: Ruben has to face the demons of his own self and his new situation in the institution for the deaf. How director and co-author Darius Marder captures this is splendid. The visual language is clear and free of any kind of gimmickry. In its conciseness the film strongly reminded me of Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler". On an acoustic level, however, "Sound of Metal" gets everything out of the story, which is not particularly complex.
It's actually quite simple: As viewers we often hear Ruben's environment as he hears it. For a long time we remain under this dome, which vaporizes sounds until only something like an acoustic ghost remains. At some point the film jumps back to normality and suddenly an everyday situation sounds very strange. A communal meal thus becomes a manifesto of acoustic details: smacking, the clatter of dishes and cutlery, street noise from outside. Together with the grandiose play of Riz Ahmed, Darius Marder succeeds in creating a very strong empathic connection that grows ever more immersively.
The acting performance of Riz Ahmed is INCREDIBLY impressive. After his natural talent has unfortunately already been completely wasted in several major productions as "Rogue One" or "Venom" because the characters he impersonated were simply not well written, he can show here for the first time a real powerhouse performance. He and the sound design cannot be appreciated enough, but these qualities serve a much more important purpose than mere showmanship.
"Sound of Metal" is above all a mediator. On the one hand between the worlds of the deaf and the hearing, on the other hand the drama also provides an intimate insight into the soul life of a desperate man, a character who was suddenly deprived of something that was taken for granted by him (and us) and has now irrevocably disappeared. All that remains of Ruben is hatred against himself. The way he gradually learns to accept his new position is a heartbreaking as well as authentic and always highly honest tour de force, at the end of which silence reigns supreme.