"Musical terrorism." When I heard this phrase in conjunction with 'Sound of Noise,' a Swedish film that screened at Fantastic Fest on Saturday, I immediately thought of 'The Blues Brothers.' Those gentlemen wreaked a lot of havoc ... but of course it was for a charitable cause. In 'Sound of Noise,' musicians wreak major havoc all over the city, on purpose, simply because they love music and want people to hear the music in everyday life, as opposed to Muzak and even traditional classical music. The film's successful balance of comedy, music, and police procedural make it easy to understand why it won two Critics Week awards at Cannes this year.
Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson) is a police inspector and also the only completely tone-deaf member of an extended musical family, including a younger brother who is a famous conductor. Warnebring knows enough about music to realize that a ticking noise his colleagues believe is from a car bomb is in fact a metronome ... and the discovery of that metronome puts him on the trail of a gang of musicians perpetrating odd crimes. Sanna (Sanna Persson) and her composer friend Magnus (Magnus Borjeson) are the head of a group performing Magnus's symphony "Music for One City and Six Drummers," which comprises four movements set in the most unlikely parts of town and involves the most unlikely musical instruments. Everything has musical possibilities in this group's hands, from medical equipment to shredders to bulldozers.
'Sound of Noise' plays exactly like a good old-fashioned caper film, specifically the kind where the criminals leave whimsical clues at the scenes of their crimes ('The Thief Who Came to Dinner' leaps to mind) and form a mysterious bond with their pursuers. But these aren't criminals, ma'am, they're musicians, although hardly law-abiding. Their musical performances are delightful, and nothing like anything you'd hear in a traditional movie musical, I assure you. I mentioned 'The Blues Brothers' above and I feel certain the filmmakers love the movie too, and have made some sly jokes echoing that film.
The movie reminded me a lot of the 2009 American film '(Untitled)', which also addressed the themes about what constitutes art and music, and how people work to explode those boundaries. 'Sound of Noise' is more overtly humorous, less snarky and lighter in tone -- and frankly, the music is often easier to listen to. However, if anyone ever plans a remake of this particular Swedish genre film, I hope they'll get David Lang, who composed just the right score for '(Untitled),' to work on the musical aspect.
Filmmakers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjaerne Nilsson made a short film in 2001 with the same theme (and musicians) on a smaller scale: 'Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers', which you can watch online. I've embedded it below, so you can get an idea of the bizarre and entrancing way that these characters make music. Combine that with a well-paced police story and even a touch of romance, and 'Sound of Noise' is a charming result. It's my favorite film from Fantastic Fest so far (although admittedly we are not quite halfway through the fest).