‘Sound of Noise’ (2010)

by Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stjärne Nilsson


There are often excuses for movies not to make sense. If a film knows it’s non-sensical and embraces it in a way that ultimately makes it fun and eccentric instead of infuriating, you become more engrossed in its events than if you were to watch a film that tries to make sense but doesn’t. Most films featured on Honest Trailers, for instance.

I often complain about the lack of great films in my homeland. For every Kung Fury, there are a hundred formulaic teenage angst movies, 20 generic cop dramas, and uncountable amounts of idiotic comedies (usually based on the Sune novels). But every once in a while, there is a film like Sound of Noise, which is a contender for the greatest Swedish film I’ve seen. It is an extension of a 2001 short film entitled Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, watchable here.

The group performs their first piece.

The group performs their first piece.

Sound of Noise concerns a group of unconventional drummers, led by Magnus Börjeson as Mange and Sanna Persson as herself, who come together to serve but one purpose: to “strike back” against all the execrable music that society force feeds them. These people of different backgrounds are looking for a new way to create music; a way that involves no traditional instruments, but rather, well, the very “sound of noise”. Their plight has turned them to a life on anarchy, as their attempts to birth an entirely new brand of music will require a few laws to be broken.

The film consists hugely of unique musical numbers, where all the music has been composed using the noises emitted from tools, machines and other random objects featured in the scene – and sometimes human bodies or the voices of troubled bystanders. There is a scene in a bank, for example, where the anarchists use the sounds of bills being shredded, keyboard-tapping, coin-flipping, and papers being stamped in a rhythmic fashion to do one of their numbers and boy is it ever catchy. My favorite number, however, is one where they create music using heavy construction machinery to disrupt the peace of a nearby orchestral concert.

As they move through the city, searching for more things to use as instruments and creating more elaborate pieces with every stop they make, they are pursued by a tone-deaf, music-loathing police officer ironically named Amadeus (Bengt Nilsson), whose complete non-understanding of music has made him a black sheep in a family of musicians, composers and child prodigies. But his tone-deafness, which is more extreme than it may sound, proves to be a useful gift to solve the case and I won’t explain more than that. His brother, a renowned conductor named Oscar (Sven Ahlström), has an unpleasant history with one of the anarchist drummers, as well.

sound of (smack) noise.The film features no huge names, but the performances are great all the same. Bengt Nilsson can be both subtle and intense when either is needed and the actors behind the percussionists all play their different weird types gloriously. My favourite is a bald man named Anders, who breaks out in a furious drum solo that seems like one of the major inspirations for Whiplash when Oscar won’t cut him a break as he’s perceived as being “too slow” on the timpani – another thing that I’m suspecting Whiplash borrowed from this movie.

As I mentioned before, there are many things that don’t make sense within the world of this film. Tone-deafness in real life isn’t exactly the curse and/or superpower that Amadeus seems to possess, no anarchist in real life would ever get away with what the characters in this movie keep getting away with, especially not breaking into a hospital with ease and stealing both equipment and patients for their musical experiment, and no one real life would do something this dangerous and illegal purely for the sake of art.

That’s the thing, though: this isn’t real life and it isn’t sold as such. It is a weird world with weird inhabitants (Amadeus usually being the one character that seems “normal”) and its reality is one that has been stylized so that all these elaborate musical numbers and stunts could take place. It’s only slightly more surreal than your average musical or Glee episode, yet far more unique in its approach to music and interesting in its characters. For now, it might be the best Swedish film I have seen. Next to Kung Fury, of course.

The shredding of paper and the stamping of files makes for great music.

The shredding of paper and the stamping of files makes for great music.