Film: Sound of Metal

Hello deafness my old friend.

by Michael Bergeron

Ruben, a punk-metal drummer, finds his life turned asunder when he starts to lose his hearing. In addition to a remarkable lead performance by Riz Ahmed the contributions to ‘Sound of Metal’ by writer/director Darius Marder and sound designer Nicolas Becker strive to give the audience an approximation of how life now sounds to Ruben.

In a virtual press conference (recorded on November 15) Marder and Becker along with other key crew and several members of the press talked about the challenges in bringing the film to fruition.

“The first thing in gathering a team for this project, which took years, was finding people who were not just top level in their various skills but who were story tellers,” says Marder. “Everyone enriched the story beyond my imagination and you can see and feel that on the screen.”

Nicolas and I had many conversations about sound perspective. We had to create this utter sense of naturalism and veracity,” says Marder about the first scene where Ruben begins to notice his hearing loss while at the band’s merch table.

As Ruben starts to lose his hearing the soundtrack begins to take on a tunnel like effect as if someone is holding clasped hands over your ears. Ahmed was wearing earplugs that gave out white noise.

“We were trying to do something new,” says Marder. “Something none of us had specifically seen or heard so it took a degree of strong authorship. A couple in a band is a metaphor for all relationships. We make music but what are we if you start pulling those sounds apart?”

Production designer Jeremy Woodward adds: “I like to pick a script where when I’m reading it I can see everything and visualize the movie. This script was an easy yes. Darius was hungry for the input of all the different crafts and how they could illuminate the text.”

No longer touring Ruben shakes off the monkey on his back that is heroin only to find living in a world without sound a new challenge. In addition to Ahmed’s strong acting, which has already garnered accolades from initial reviews, Olivia Cooke as a band member and Ruben’s girlfriend shows a mercurial ability to change her appearance and motivation throughout. Other actors like Paul Raci (as a counselor) and Lauren Ridloff (as a teacher) have first hand knowledge of the world they portray – she’s actually deaf since birth and Raci’s parents were deaf.

“Sound of Metal” is currently in theaters and premieres on Amazon Prime December 4.

The complete press conference can be seen here:

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