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The Deafening Sound of Silence- A Review of ‘Sound of Metal’

by Rena Lenchitz (’23)

In a world bombarded with endless white noise and the pestering sounds of everyday life, seldom do we get a moment to fully acknowledge all that our ears provide for us. These fixtures are conduits of sound, balance, and most importantly, life in general. Most of us today would find a world of silence extremely isolating and unimaginably disrupted.

Film director Darius Marder takes audience members on a journey of loss and self-discovery in his breakthrough feature film ‘Sound of Metal.’ British actor Riz Ahmed demonstrates a jaw dropping performance as Ruben, a heavy metal drummer who lives off the beaten path with his girlfriend Lou (played by Olivia Cooke) as they tour the country. After waking up one morning to the dulled sound of a blender, Ruben’s perception of the world around him is forever changed when he learns his hearing has been diminished to just a fraction of its normal capacity. Following this devastating diagnosis, Ruben struggles with the loss of his sense, profession, and ability to express himself.

Throughout the course of the film, it becomes clear that Ruben previously battled substance addiction and abuse. With the help of his girlfriend, Ruben is sent to a commune of deaf recovering addicts who are dedicated to transforming their lives for the better and employing their impairment as a tool for their individual lives. As the narrative unfolds, viewers bear witness to Ruben’s emotional transformation: from unrelenting denial to an acceptance of the obstacle placed before him in a world designed for hearing people.

The most captivating technique used in this film is obviously sound. The stark contrasts of birds chirping and trees blowing in the wind during Ruben’s isolated living on the commune is beautifully juxtaposed with busy street noises and overwhelming daily commotion. These gentle reminders of the hearing world are paired with still shots of the sky, passing buildings and even classrooms, giving a glimpse into the visual setting that requires both viewers and Ruben alike to be more attentive.

In Marder’s film, those of us who are fortunate enough to fully embrace the ease of living in the hearing world are provided with a shocking and even slightly unsettling reality of what it is like to be hearing impaired. I felt tense as Ruben sat across from his physician, begging for the chance to hear again. I felt relieved when Ruben settled into life at the commune, allowing himself to become a fixture of strength and resilience among his peers. Most importantly, I felt anxious as well as an eerie sense of ease when the film was devoid of all sound.

Oftentimes we relish in the fact that we rarely experience loss, whether that be of a sense or a loved one. In this film, we are reminded just how lucky we are; ‘Sound of Metal’ is a tastefully crafted narrative describing a man who struggles to regain a life once loved and now lost. It is a story about yearning so deeply for something that would no longer satisfy nor suit him. ‘Sound of Metal’ highlights Ruben’s addiction for the past, for a life of ignorant bliss that bore few obstacles or a hearing impairment. Marder implores the audience to remember that those with hearing impairments have nothing to fix or reverse. This movie assures that in those far and few moments of complete silence, our thoughts, actions and beliefs about the world around us could never be louder. For “the world does keep moving and it can be a damn cruel place, but…those moments of stillness, that place… will never abandon you.”

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