Gimmicky Oz cop drama “Noise” is a slickly executed experiment full of sound and fury, signifying nothing more than technical prowess. Sophomore effort from Matthew Saville, who impressed with his 50-minute “Roy Hollsdotter Live,” consolidates helmer’s status as a rising talent, but his script’s unwavering fidelity to its audio emphasis at the expense of narrative makes this more calling card than feature film. Fests will tune in for novelty value, but Oz B.O. will likely be confined to arthouse frequency. Satisfactory ancillary viewing will depend on quality of home sound systems.
Pic opens with a tour de force of sound design that introduces headphones-toting teen Lavinia Smart (Maia Thomas) as she boards a nighttime Melbourne train. Due to her cacophonous music, Lavinia is oblivious to the multitude of noises sliding in and out of the surrounding soundscape, not to mention the bloody corpses left in her carriage by an unseen gunman.
As police rush to halt the train, Constable Graham McGahan (Brendan Cowell) faints while investigating a nearby station down the line. Upon awakening in a hospital’s casualty ward, McGahan, who has apparently been suffering blackouts for months, is diagnosed with tinnitus.
Tabling a doctor’s certificate for his tinnitus but accused of malingering by his superiors, McGahan is demoted to light duties, and is forced to work as a night-shift community contact officer. Assigned to a down-at-heel neighborhood where a woman was recently murdered, McGrath finds that his role is largely a PR exercise, providing locals with an opportunity to report suspicious behavior.
Among McGahan’s regular visitors are the dead woman’s grieving fiance, a kleptomaniac idiot savant and a local young redneck. This strand tenuously criss-crosses with the efforts of detectives Noel Birchall and Melanie Ryan (Nicholas Bell and Fiona Macleod, respectively) to extract information about the missing gunman from a terrified but withholding Lavinia.
Detailed soundscape is by turns inventive, impressive and irritating. No sinister footstep, stirring coffee spoon, speeding car or any other incidental noise is allowed to go unnoticed. As an experiment, pic is initially remarkable. Around the first-hour mark, however, when it becomes evident that helmer is unwilling or unable to resolve yarn’s narrative dilemmas, interest in this relentless acoustic display inevitably wanes.
In between sound effects, perfs are generally effective. However, scenes where Cowell’s McGahan and his live-in g.f. Caitlin (Katie Wall) juggle the plentiful Oz colloquialisms (some of which are incomprehensible outside Melbourne, suggesting that dialogue is also being treated as “noise”) are marred by overly exaggerated working-class accents. Lensing by Laszlo Baranyai is top-quality, but inevitably, it is the extraordinary work by sound designer Emma Bortignon that will attract most kudos.