“Sound of Metal” review: When the world fades into silence

“Sound of Metal” released theatrically on November 20, 2020 and Amazon Studios made it available to stream on Prime Video on December 4, 2020. (The Indian Express)

Joeli Toscano

The “Sound of Metal” follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a heavy metal drummer touring across the country in a motorhome with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) until he suddenly loses his ability to hear.

The dramatic film, directed and written by first-time director Darius Marder, throws the viewer into a first-hand experience of losing one of your basic senses, hearing. In many instances, it is only silence that fills the soundtrack.

Not only does Marder put us inside of Ruben’s ears in his journey to becoming deaf, but we also feel the emotional shock to the system. Often, people take things such as hearing for granted, but when stripped away, one can be left feeling hopeless, angry or scared.

Ruben had a difficult past dealing with drug addiction and depression. His “PLEASE KILL ME” tattoo sprawled across his chest highlights this. He has finally hit a high point in life accomplishing four years of sobriety, a fruitful music career and touring with the love of his life and band duo lead singer Lou.

He must come to terms with his loss of hearing which causes roadblocks across a majority of his life. Lou recognizes the trauma as a threat to his long-standing sobriety. She brings him to a deaf sobriety home to make peace with his new condition. He must sacrifice his music career and beloved relationship to save his own mental and physical health.

A man named Joe (Paul Raci) runs the home. He is an alcoholic and Vietnam war veteran who lost his hearing on duty. Joe’s treatment plan is to fix Ruben’s perspective on his condition, not the hearing loss itself. Joe offers him the chance to find acceptance, but Ruben is reluctant to leave his old life behind.

Ahmed had to prepare for the film by learning difficult new skills including the drums and American Sign Language. According to Ahmed in a Cinemablend interview conducted by Jeff McCobb, in order to immerse himself into the character, he wore inverted hearing aids that produced white noise to block his hearing during the filming of the movie. He later abandoned the auditory blockers and began communicating in only sign language as the film progressed.

“I guess it just gave me a small glimpse, emotionally, to try and build out from, in terms of what that kind of destabilizing loss of something that you think of as being part of your identity can be like,” Ahmed said.

Marder admitted in his interview with McCobb that many times the emotion portrayed in Ahmed’s acting brought him to tears.

“As a director, to watch someone fill a script in the way Riz did, with that kind of integrity; it’s just an ineffable experience,” said Marder.

Marder did an exceptional job of bringing awareness to the deaf community while telling a fascinating story of one man’s struggle with existence. He highlighted the difficulty that comes along with major changes in life but remained strong on the belief that being deaf is not a handicap.

The film is available for viewing on Amazon Prime streaming services.

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