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Sound of Metal: An Excellent Film That Features an Award-Worthy Performance From Riz Ahmed

December 4, 2020

If you’re looking for an excellent film featuring an Oscar-worthy performance from Riz Ahmed, look no further than the Sound of Metal. Directed and written by former concert photographer Darius Marder (he also wrote The Place Beyond the Pines), Sound of Metal focuses on a drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed) losing his hearing while on tour with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). This sudden loss of hearing leads him to stay at a deaf community led by Joe (Paul Raci), where he learns to accept the loss of his hearing, while also attempting to not fall back on prior addictions.

The film starts out with a lived-in authenticity as Ruben and Lou play various venues around the United States. Ruben is the drummer, and Lou plays guitar and sings in their band Blackgammon. Their mode of transportation is a surprisingly nice Airstream RV, that puts to shame the majority of the beaten up vans that pulled up to the venues I worked in over the years. Ruben is loaded up with cockroach, underwear and “Scumbag” tattoos that seem homemade, while Lou has dyed eyebrows and a laid-back style that compliments Ruben’s almost manic demeanor. When he starts losing his hearing, his four years of sobriety are put to the test when he’s separated from Lou, and forced to stay at a deaf community where he works with children and learns to be at peace with his life.

Shot over the period of four weeks, and led by an excellent and committed performance from Riz Ahmed, who learned to play the drums, and use American sign language (Cooke also learned how to play the guitar), the film hits hard, and looks excellent. The cinematography by Daniël Bouquet is wonderful, as the handheld camera work, and strategic static shots allow the performances to thrive. The sound design is also excellent, as the film relies on silence, and sudden bursts of sound that provide a contrast to the lack of sound. The film took years to get off the ground, as Marder suffered from constant setbacks and cast changes that delayed the production. In the end, the delays might have helped as the added time helped everything feel lived in and authentic. It’s also neat that the Sound of Metal is dedicated to Marder’s grandmother, who went deaf, and after reading several interviews, I learned that he relied on the deaf community to make it as authentic as possible. The end product is wonderful, and I love the film and the performances.

Watch Sound of Metal before you think about putting together any “best of ” lists!

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