Sound of Metal may start with the crash of drums, the buzzing atmosphere of a concert jumping out of the room it inhabits, but this immersive experience of a film is much more than the sound that is or isn’t present; it is a meditation on what it means to truly embrace peace.
Following the life of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer, Sound of Metal drills into the terrifying experience of losing the ability to hear. As Ruben shoves his way through the backdoor of the concert stage, falling into an alleyway, he enters a world so different than the one he inhabited only moments before. And he has to learn what it means to live in it.
Awarded Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound, it is no surprise that this film utilises sound to its advantage to place the viewer within the character of Ruben, as our own eardrums tackle the high, piercing sound of his damaged hearing and the faint, bumbling commotion of a life he can’t quite hear, can’t quite pinpoint. It is extraordinarily uncomfortable, feeling his initial panic as my own, checking my ears once, twice, three times to remind myself that this is a story on a screen. But for many it isn’t.
I can’t begin to comprehend the life of someone losing their hearing, but this film pays a quietly powerful tribute to all those suffering. I didn’t know much going into it, and it’s clear that it’s all about the “sound of metal” as a drummer within a metal band, but as the viewer weaves in and out of the hearing world and the frazzled, uncomfortable sounds of a man isolated from it, “metal” becomes more than music; it becomes Ruben’s reliance. Stuck with the hope of a metal implant, he seeks a different kind of noise – artificial yet real, different yet life-saving.
From the initial confusion, to anger and frustration, to figuring out how to move forward… Ruben spends so much time searching for this metal solution for his physical impairment, not yet realising the true solution lies in his capability to sit in the stillness, the peace, the silence. His solution lies in a sad, weird, wonderful, heart-breaking sense of acceptance, aside from any kind of device.
Ending this film felt like ending an era – if that could ever be fathomable. Accumulating all these snapshots into Ruben’s life and his impact on those around him, it built up to a moment in time that felt like, rather than an ending, a beginning. Perhaps even a middle, more than anything. And yet it was perfect.
Cue the credits and the most beautiful song filtered out the speakers and you can’t help but feel all the pain repressed into the screen leak out in the subtle cries of a song – one that speaks the honest words of so many in a similar situation to Ruben. And you can’t help but be truly grateful – to be able to hear, to be able to truly experience the world.
Sound of Metal tells a story that is often heard but not truly understood. It made its impact – in so many ways – and I don’t think any words could do justice to the exceptional acting, editing, sound and production that went into making this a truly immersive experience.
Have you seen Sound of Metal?
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