The Sound of Metal begins with an interesting premise that may seem impossible to pull off in a film: Heavy metal drummer Ruben begins to lose his hearing during his band’s tour, and must find a way to adjust the loss of sound.
I’d definitely read the book. But can a film capture the experience of sensory loss for an audience? And keep focused on believable character arc?
The settings of the film all feel very believable. From RVs to heavy- metal concerts to rural landscapes to to luxury homes, every space feels authentic to the characters, and threaded to their past and future selves.
Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is always between spaces that represent change, because his hearing loss is subtext for every scene. Director Darius Marder and his sound team did an impressive job demonstrating the eerie, slow degradation of hearing loss: It is not just sudden silence. No sound is clear, but some can be understood, mostly because you know them from memory. A loud cacophonous echo of muffles. And eventually, nothing. Not even the sound of a loved one yelling out to stop you can stop you from a mistake that could cause harm.
Ruben is constantly fighting against the reality of the situation, but he is given the chance to regain his hearing through an expensive surgery within the first twenty minutes. This could be an easy way out for the wrong filmmaker and screenwriter, but Sound of Metal surprises us constantly. The ending is atypical and completes a genuine character arc for Ruben and others.
We also talk this episode about what we learned about the deaf community. Just as the film takes us to the brink of hopelessness, we realize that some deaf people don’t see deafness as a handicap at all — and continue to live their lives in beauty, balance and peace.
Sound of Metal is now streaming on Amazon.