Blackgammon is the name of a punk-metal band put together by drummer Ruben and his war buddy Lou. For a rocker, Reuben, a former drug addict who had given up his addiction, is too focused on a healthy lifestyle; however, it’s better not to be immune to illnesses, like to fate and imprisonment. While performing, he suddenly hears that the drums do not produce the trademark sound, but a muffled hum. This is the first symptom of imminent hearing loss. So Reuben goes to the secluded abode of people with deafness to learn to be deaf himself.
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“The Sound of Metal,” so praised by film critics around the world, can be classified as a film with very exciting synopses. First, Riz Ahmed, who is a very talented artist, plays Reuben, the drummer of a punk band who loves partying, drugs and tattoos, and is rapidly losing his hearing. The prospect of being handicapped by his lifestyle sounds terrifying, and then there’s the added factor that Reuben is essentially to blame for it himself. Secondly, “The Sound of Metal” is conceptually a state drama, and with obvious nihilistic overtones: even the opening scene shows this. However, for all the above, The Sound is hard to watch (and listen to): despite the innovative approaches associated with sound editing, director Darius Marder, known primarily for co-writing the script for Place Under the Pines, is heavily into the technical aspects of his picture and is not sufficiently concerned with the main thing – revealing Ruben as a person. “The Sound of Metal” is two hours long, and the events in it unfold at a snail’s pace, not because nothing happens, but because there is almost no real drama.
The protagonist is a lovable but dim-witted outsider who confronts his gradually changing state in the same way as everything else: with the blank face of a “spirited” punk rocker. Marder seems to have missed certain features of the script: if he had shown how Reuben loses his hearing over time, not only would it have played into the drama, but we would have learned more about the character, such as what his values are or how he experiences loss. Watching “The Sound of Metal” reveals flaws in the script related to the main character: viewers begin to worry about questions about the characters that the director himself apparently didn’t ask himself.
Reuben has a girlfriend named Lou, a bandmate. They enjoy their semi-gypsy existence, traveling in a motorhome from gig to gig. Reuben and Lou are progressive vegan punks who express their aggression at musical events. But that topic, too, remains unexplored. And once Lou realizes what’s going on with Ruben after all, she devises a kind of therapy for him in a small commune where only deaf and dumb people live. Darius Marder probably wanted to add themes of redemption, questions of a higher power that can change the hero, but the author’s point of view, which is reflected in the film, is that the deaf community is seen as almost an ideal society. Reuben goes this route and joins them, and thus the imperative of “The Sounds” proves too strict: if Marder makes an argument against our society and prejudiced thinking, then why not side with Reuben? The seemingly ordinary drama is full of unnecessary doctrines, causing the film to be seen as pretentious.
Eventually the character undergoes a certain evolution and quite decent episodes begin, more focused on technical execution than drama. Interestingly, Marder’s desire to immerse the audience in the world of the deaf man worked, but sadly, the idea was not followed through. In its current form, “The Sound of Metal” is constructed in such a way that Reuben eventually finds his true path and decides to become a different person. The funny thing is that hearing (or lack thereof) doesn’t define his nature. It’s an enlightening idea, you could even make a pun about how “The Sound of Metal” tells the viewer more than he hears, but within the confines of, again, a dramatic story, it simply seems forced out.
Focusing on characters rather than emotions or even ideologies, “The Sound of Metal” is a lighthearted drama with a lot of ideas not particularly well-rehearsed. Technically, the film isn’t bad: strong design, a dull and realistic palette, and the actors’ immersion in the film’s world all have an impact. The soundtrack is also on point and makes you realize what it’s like to be like Reuben. Nevertheless, in terms of narrative, “The Sound” was a simple film: a spectacle, of course, ambiguous and original, but not at all surprising.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (87.3 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1