Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal is one movie that will give you that melancholic hangover. The character of Ruben Stone lingers on your mind. And that’s mostly because of the kind of raw empathy the filmmaker shows towards his central protagonist. The theme here is about accepting certain irrevocable realities and stay in the race rather than trying to get back to the same old comfort. It is a story trait we have seen in many films, yet this mind-numbing drama moves you.
Ruben Stone, a drummer who tours with his singer-girlfriend Lou, is our central protagonist. During one performance of the couple, Ruben realizes that he was losing his hearing ability. He tried to hide it from Lou, thinking it would affect their tour plan. But eventually, he was forced to go to a place where he will get trained along with deaf people. Ruben’s training at that center and how he struggles to cope with his new reality is the content of Sound of Metal.
The first hour of the movie is somewhat as clueless and frantic as our protagonist. It’s not easy to settle, and I feel it was a deliberate move. It is towards the middle of the movie, where we see a sense of acceptance of reality from Ruben; the film starts to find a steady tempo. But Darius Marder and Abraham Marder don’t want to make this movie a philosophical feel-good affair. They throw in a situation that urges Stone to do anything so that he can get back to that old life. Events that unfold post this situation are too heart wrenching. The sound design is done in a way that you feel like you are inside Ruben’s head. I was using a headset to watch the movie, and the impact was intense.
Darius has made this movie like an indie drama. The scale factor here is pretty minimal. We get to see many handheld mid-shots that depict the frenzied mood of a man going through something for which he was totally unprepared. They have used sound design very cleverly. At times we are observing Stone, and there are times where we see things from his POV. The Marders want us to think about the character. So the movie ends in that abrupt silent fashion, which gives you that moody hangover I mentioned initially.
The performance of Riz Ahmed is outstanding here. From that panicking Stone to a man who has finally accepted the harsh reality, Ahmed’s performance helps the movie enormously in showcasing that character’s trauma. Ahmed internalizes a lot of the pain, and the character rarely breaks down. It was those eyes (he reminds you of Fahadh Faasil) that conveyed the anxiety. Paul Raci, as the trainer Joe, delivered a convincing performance, especially in those combination scenes with Ahmed.
Sound of Metal successfully induces that lingering pain in the viewer’s mind. Powered by a terrific performance from its leading man Riz Ahmed, the story of Ruben Stone will stay with you. The unromanticized depiction of a painful reality makes this Darius Marder movie a moving piece of cinema.
The unromanticized depiction of a painful reality makes this Darius Marder movie a moving piece of cinema.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended