It is very tempting to automatically think of ‘Whiplash’, although ‘Sound of Metal’ has nothing to do with that, except that it also stars a drummer, of course. In fact, we could even affirm without fear of being wrong that Darius Marder’s first (fiction) film poses a totally different thesis, much closer in body and soul to ‘The Rider’, the wonderful film that placed Chlo Zhao in Map.
This film, in case you don’t have the immense taste, revolves around Brady Jandreau, a character played by Brady Jandreau himself: A young “cowboy” who, after being trampled almost to death by a horse, wears a metal plate on his head. The doctors advised him never to ride again, that if he suffered a minor blow to the head again, he could die. But it didn’t take long for Brady to ride wild horses again.
“I’m useless if I can’t do the only thing I can do,” he said. The young Ruben whom he plays with teacher Riz Ahmed faces a very similar situation: He is the drummer of a fledgling musical group who has become practically deaf. With all the time ahead, he faces something he had never contemplated: having to say goodbye not to the dream of his life, but also to everything that has been up to that moment.
“I am useless if I cannot do the only thing I want to do”, could say Ruben, who although he does not exist could well exist in the same way as the aforementioned Brady Jandreau. Because in practice, both films convey the same sense of truth, that which artists love so much. That “truth” that emanates from a story that transcends the story and literally becomes a piece of someone’s life.
‘Sound of Metal’ is not the typical film of overcoming adversity, nor is it the typical indie film although it seems like it, and in fact it used many of its weapons. ‘Sound of Metal’ is an honest and deeply felt, empathetic and immersive portrait of what it means to get up after falling and hitting rock bottom. Adapt or die. If Andrew Neiman fought to be the best, Ruben fought simply to be.
“Life makes its way,” said Ian Malcolm, the sexiest mathematician in movie history. In the same way Darius Marder, its screenwriter and director, lets the story make its way and develop, apparently, where it can roll naturally and organically, downhill, without melodramatic turns or especially low blows. Without romanticizing or idealizing, and always focusing on the most human that can be on the scene.
That’s where Riz Ahmed shines, in one of those performances that should definitely put him on the front line. Marder gives him all the space, both to and to the other interpreters, in order, without forcing the slightest bit, to let out the drama inherent in every life struck by its own existence. To all existence struck by the inevitability of unpredictable changes. Living is dreaming and suffering at the same time.
As if that weren’t enough, ‘Sound of Metal’ brings with it an exceptional broken sound design that immerses us, even more so in a narrative that enters through one ear to stay and live in our heads. An immersive sound design that rounds out what ‘Sound of Metal’ is all about, an intense, absorbing and very vivid emotional experience that hits us as hard as a drum can hit a musical instrument.
And suddenly, there was silence. And suddenly, we discover ourselves in front of a dark screen, in silence, alone with ourselves, paralyzed and with a blank mind, totally abstracted … until the world claims us again with a powerful roar that is felt like a slap in the face. And the hours and days will pass and we will still hear that distorted melody that haunts us from a distance …
By Juan Pairet Iglesias
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