The Quietness of Desolation
Sound of Metal
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff and Mathieu Amalric
Director: Darius Marder
Scriptwriters: Darius Marder and Abraham Marder
Composer: Nicholas Becker and Abraham Marder
Cinematography: Daniel Bouquet
Rating: R for themed material, drug use and profanity
Running Length: 120 Minutes
Subtitled to show audience what the main character is actually hearing
American Sign Language
2020 has three films that deal with hearing loss or total deafness. “God of The Piano” was about what happens when a deaf child is born into a prestigious music family. “Louis von Beethoven” is about the last years of composer Ludwig von Beethoven when he is totally deaf and still composing music. (In other countries, Ludwig is sometimes called Louis). This review will be about “Sound of Metal,” and what happens when a rising rock drummer finds himself rapidly losing his hearing. Hearing loss, perhaps, permanently, is difficult to cope with. If you have ever had a cold or sinus problem, and find your hearing is somewhat diminished, you are frightened. “Speak louder!” “Turn the TV/radio up!” “I did not hear the phone ring!” “What doorbell?” Life goes on, and you are on the side lines. Riz Ahmed (“The OA” and “Venom”) stars as Ruben, the drummer, whose passion is beating the heck out of drums---and then he can’t hear them. With him on the journey is Olivia Cooke from TV’s “Vanity Fair” as Lou, the girlfriend who tries to put up with this catastrophe. Life has suddenly given them a smack in the face.
*In the film, there are subtitles that show and tell what Ruben is hearing. This gives the audience an opportunity to “hear” what it is like to lose your hearing. You participate in the experience.
Riz Ahmed took drum lessons for months to prepare for his role. Much like actor Miles Teller in 2014’s “Whiplash.” Ahmed’s bare-chested go-for-the-gold-ring attitude on stage gives him fans and Lou’s voice is there with him. She is raspy and a Janis Joplin clone. They are a team and life on the road in their custom van is good. However, fate decides to give them a right-angle turn, and Lou notices that Ruben isn’t hearing well. Is he caught up in the music, or is it something else? Ruben is a stubborn, one-track person who won’t give in and from then on, his life slowly slides downward as Lou, regretfully, leaves, and Ruben decides to have surgery to “fix” his hearing. Ruben was flipping a two-headed coin here, and both sides come up with “problems ahead.” Eventually, Ruben decides he needs help and is aided by Joe, who has a training school, in the country, for deaf people. You can learn sign language and how to adjust in society. For Ruben, this is temporary, though he finds he likes working with children. The goal is still surgery, so by selling everything he owns and borrowing money, Ruben has the cochlear implants. Has he burned his bridges behind him?
“Sound of Metal” rests on the performance of Riz Ahmed and he does so well as the individual used to having his way and being on top of his game, when, suddenly, the rules of the game have changed. Body language says is all. He is the film. His laser focus is on getting his hearing back to where it was, that’s all that counts, friends can be disposable. However, as time goes along, he begins to realize that friendships may be the only lasting thing and hearing is disposable. Cinematographer Daniel Bouquet places us on stage with Ruben and uses light and shadows for effect.
“Sound of Metal” is not a gentle film. Ruben had been running away from his reality. There are harsh realities here and the rebuilding of a person’s life. What is lost cannot be regained and the emptiness of that loss is overwhelming. The audience can tell what Ruben is actually hearing and this is what people with hearing losses hear. This can be devastating when you realize the rest of your life will be like this. Can you make a future for yourself, or, perhaps, is there a future for you?
Copyright 2020 Marie Asner
Available on Amazon Prime