Sound of metal is an empathetic character piece which feels more terrifying than any of the horror movies of last year. It shows the life of a drummer as it is sent into a downward spiral after he starts to lose his hearing. In his theatrical debut as a director, Darius Marder has been successful in enveloping the audience not only by expertly capturing the raw performance of our actors but by also overseeing the claustrophobic sound design for it.
Riz Ahmed elevates the script. With his nuanced acting he is able to capture the dichotomous struggle of a man trying to find tranquility by accepting his situation while also desperately trying to get his past back. He is not just angry, but scared. Even in his anger, baring that one scene in his RV, he never lashes out physically. The writers, Marder brothers and Derek Cianfrance, avoid Hollywood’s tropes when it comes to similar social issues. Ruben(Rizwan Ahmed) and Lou(Olivia Cooke), after going their separate ways, do not fall in love with someone else. Ruben never steals from his recovery home. We are not taken into the operation room for an extensive period which makes the scene where he “hears” for the first time more disturbingly chilling. They don’t even try to fill the audience with pathos by going deeper into the deaf community’s issues. This amount of restraint shown by everyone involved in the creative process flings Sound of Metal in a lot of people’s favourites list.
It starts with an intense band performance of Lou and Ruben. The next morning he experiences his first ringing. Something which does not leave either him or the audience till that final scene of acceptance. In secrecy, trying to defy his circumstances, he visits a doctor where he tells him that his listening capabilities are at only 30% and it will keep on deteriorating. Right after, It hard cuts to him performing at another metal concert with little to no regard to the advice he was given. Pretending or rather distracting himself from reality only for it to slap him in the face as he heartbreakingly tells his partner, “I can’t hear anything.”
Most of this movie happens at a rehabilitation facility for deaf people run by Joe(Paul Raci). The contrast between this loving family as they share dinner and the alienation felt by Ruben, as everyone else converses in sign language is more effective than the use of melodramatic music. The subtle cues of his body as he observes and learns from everyone in the community in the next few days is the kind of performance I have missed so much last year. Paul Raci in the supporting role of Ruben’s mentor is just as excellent. The scene where Joe tells Ruben he can’t stay with the group anymore has this emotional weight attached to it which makes the scene filled with disappointment and frustration even more compelling. No one in here misses a single beat.
With what the actors have pulled off in this film, it’s not a surprise that the casting for it took more than ten years. Riz Ahmad was extremely dedicated to his role as he learned how to play drums, the American Sign language and wore special devices to stimulate what it would be like to be deaf.
In this thought provoking watch Darius Marder, Abraham Marder and Nicolas Becker have crafted something which will require you to pay attention to it even when it slows down to a pace some people might not be comfortable with. Much like our main character, this movie asks you to soak in the melancholic stillness to find some happiness.