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Sound Of Noise: Six Drummers and an Absurdist Caper

I mostly see this excellent 2010 Swedish film directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson talked about in articles highlighting “hidden gems” or bemoaning “underrated” movies. While Sound Of Noise (Amazon, iTunes) is definitely an odd little creature, I’ve always found it engaging and insightful enough to not be marginalized by being approached merely as a quirky cult film with the handicap of being overlooked.

The film follows a cat and mouse game between a band of experimental percussionists undertaking a guerilla-style musical performance piece and a cop tasked with stopping their disruptions.

The gang of percussionists is lead by Sanna Persson and Magnus Börjeson, who undertake small drumming interventions but yearn for something bigger — the scene of their performance of “Music For One Highway” heralds the energetic playfulness that is to come. Magnus offers his composition,”Music for the City and Six Drummers,” and the two recruit other drummers and begin to perform the work despite risks. Right from the start they attract the attention of the authorities, since the piece involves a hospital and a television personality.

Sound-of-Noise-3Chasing after them is Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), a tone-deaf cop born into a musical family, and alienated by both his condition and his younger brother, Oscar (Sven Ahlström), an acclaimed conductor. People can tell Amadeus how impressive his brother’s work is, but Amandeus obviously can’t hear it. It’s all just noise to him. Everything is noise to Amadeus.

This puts the troupe of drummers on equal level to Oscar, at least in Amadeus’ estimation. It all sounds the same to him.  The troupe also are also the counterpoint to Oscar, with non-structured performances that function as anarchic attacks on the State, a.k.a. the institutionalized history of music.

Since their method of performance is not structured, there is no music hall, no expectation of performance. As a member of the police force, Amadeus is sworn to uphold the principles of civilization and order. By contrast the members of percussive anarchists represent chaos, and in this way, opposite of Oscar, as well as what Amadeus works to protect. As Amadeus continues to track them, he slowly begins to believe that the drummers may be the answer to silencing the noise his brother adds to his psychology. Amadeus, figuratively and literally, wants quiet.

SoN01.jpgIn this way, the film takes the concept of chaos and order, and twists them around. Chaos becomes comforting in its role as an antidote to sameness. At the same time, creating chaos — good chaos — only becomes possible thanks to the physical structures of order — hospitals, electric towers, and others, as well as the institution of musical composition, from which the ideas spring onto paper, if not exactly adhering to the tradition formally. And the act of unleashing chaos is most exciting because of the order that the actions not only pound against, but are hunted by.

Tons of whimsy echoes out alongside the rhythmic pounding of the film, creating laughs and weirdness, both immensely successfully. The musical sequences are hilarious and infectious, and Amadeus’ family predicament is easy to sympathize with.

The movie actually stems from the work of a real life performance group called Six Drummers, the members of which play the drummers in the film, and the very real energy of the group comes through. The film is paean to so many things, but most notably, the idea of cultural pranking, even cultural terrorism, as being mandatory to preventing the inevitable societal lull we all face, all to a catchy rhythmic soundtrack (Amazon, iTunes) that will stay with you.

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