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Sound of Noise

A delightful comic cocktail of modern city symphony, police procedural and love story.

With: Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson Halapi, Magnus Borjeson, Anders Vestergard, Fredrik Myhr, Marcus Haraldson Boij, Johannes Bjork, Sven Ahlstrom, Peter Schildt, Pelle Ohlund, Paula McManus.

The sound and image anarchists behind the 2001 cult short “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers” successfully take their concept and talent to a larger arena in “Sound of Noise,” a delightful comic cocktail of modern city symphony, police procedural and love story. Played at a lively tempo, the feature debut of Swedish helmers Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson hits tones corresponding to silly, raucous and rhapsodic. Critical praise and savvy marketing could transform sure-fire fest crowd-pleaser into a niche arthouse success in most markets.

With the most complex and wackily staged musical numbers since Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Delicatessen”, the pic was far more demanding to make than it is to watch. Simple narrative revolves around police officer Amadeus Warnebring (engagingly played by Bengt Nilsson), tone-deaf scion of a distinguished musical family, and his attempts to track down a group of six guerilla percussionists whose anarchic public performances are terrorizing the city.

The drumming set pieces correspond to an avant-garde score with four hilariously titled movements: “Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas (In My Ass),” “Money 4 U, Honey,” “Fuck The Music Kill! Kill!” and “Electric Love.”

Where the short involved the six drummers imaginatively using standard apartment furnishings as their instruments, the feature unleashes them on an unspecified city’s civic and cultural institutions. “Doctor, Doctor” plays out in a hospital operating room, literally removing the sound from a windbag patient; staged like a robbery, “Money” makes beautiful music from a bank’s paraphernalia; the classical music establishment comes under attack from heavy machinery in “Music”; and the dangerous looking “Love” plays out in midair on the city’s electric lines.

The screenplay provides an amusing backstory for each of the soberly dressed drummers as well as their nemesis, music-hating investigator Warnebring. Pic pokes fun at policiers throughout, hitting a comic high note when Warnebring’s commanding officer orders a roundup of the city’s musicians. Although some viewers might be put off by pic’s sillier elements, it’s hard to resist the clever way scribe-helmers Simonsson and Nilsson create music from the dull, repetitive sounds of everyday life.

Ensemble cast plays in tune with the helmers’ humorous intent, even though the five male members of Six Drummers are professional musicians rather than actors.

Reportedly four years in the making, script development involved the drummers hunting for optimal sounds, recording them with French foley artist Nicolas Becker and seeing if their creative percussion would work sonically and visually — an elaborate undertaking that owes its success to all who contributed to the complex sound design.

Widescreen lensing of precision-staged setups by Charlotta Tengroth and bright, primary-color production design by Cecilia Sterner (both longtime collaborators of the helmers) lead the visual side of the stellar tech package.

Sound of Noise


Production: A Wild Bunch (France) release of a Bliss, DFM, Nordisk Film production, in co-production with Kostr-Film, Wild Bunch, Film i Skane, Film i Vast, Europasound, Touscoprod, with the participation of Sofica Cinemage 3, Sveriges Television, Canal Plus Suede, the Swedish Film Institute, the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film and TV Fund, Media Programme of the European Union, Konstnarsnamnden. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Jim Birmant, Guy Pechard, Christophe Audeguis, Olivier Guerpillon. Directed, written by Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjarne Nilsson.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Charlotta Tengroth; editors, Stefan Sundlof, Andreas Johnsson Hay; music, Magnus Borjeson, Six Drummers, Fred Avril; production designer, Cecilia Sterner; costume designer, Gabriella Dinnetz; sound (Dolby Digital), Nicolas Becker, Lasse Liljeholm, Eddie Axberg, Cyril Holz, Philippe Amouroux, Gabor Pasztor, Ulf Olausson; casting, Sara Tornqvist. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 18, 2010. Running time: 98 MIN.

Cast: With: Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson Halapi, Magnus Borjeson, Anders Vestergard, Fredrik Myhr, Marcus Haraldson Boij, Johannes Bjork, Sven Ahlstrom, Peter Schildt, Pelle Ohlund, Paula McManus.(Swedish dialogue)

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