Sound of Metal – story about a musician who loses his hearing, but not his passion
The TIFF 2019 favourite film, SOUND OF METAL, is about a heavy metal drummer whose life is upended when he loses his hearing. Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) live together, two nomads traveling gig to gig on an endless American tour. Their music is loud, frenzied and passionate, until one day Ruben is overwhelmed by a severe ringing in his ears, which quickly gives way to deafness. Ruben is suddenly overcome by anxiety, depression, and soon enough his past addictions begin to surface. Ruben checks himself into a home for deaf addicts run by an eccentric deaf veteran, Joe. In this world of silence and under Joe’s tough, observant care, Ruben must confront himself more honestly than ever before. The love and sound of his old life echoes in Ruben’s mind, calling for him to return.
“It was important to me that the film was genuine and visceral in its approach, and that the story provide a window into a culture and way of life that encapsulates so many people: Deaf, hard of hearing, and CODA (Children of Deaf Adults),” says director Darius Marder about the film. “In order to create an authentic experience of deafness, Riz wore custom devices in his ears that emitted a white noise of varying intensity, thus allowing him to experience the closest approximation to progressive deafness that we could simulate, including the inability to hear even his own voice.” See full Director’s Statement below.
SOUND OF METAL, will open in select Canadian theatres on November 20th (see list below). The film will then be available digitally and on demand across Canada on Friday, December 4th.
Toronto, ON – TIFF Bell Lightbox Digital Platform (Virtual Cinema)**
Kingston, ON – The Screening Room
Windsor, ON – SilverCity Windsor Cinemas
Windsor, ON – Lakeshore Cinemas
Sudbury, ON – Imagine Cinemas Downtown Movie Lounge
London, ON – Imagine Cinemas Citi Plaza
Directed by Darius Marder, SOUND OF METAL stars Riz Ahmed (The Night Of, Sisters Brothers) and Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Thoroughbreds),.
It’s been about eight years since I began writing Sound of Metal as a scripted feature. The project actually began years earlier as a collaboration with my dear friend and frequent writing partner Derek Cianfrance. At that time, it was an exploratory, hybrid documentary involving a real couple in a Metal band. The seed of that project grew into the film it is today.
What draws us to certain subject matter at certain times is a fantastic and wonderful mystery. I can speak to various aspects of this project that were always obvious inspirations such as the cinematic exploration of sound POV, or the lure of a transformative, road, love story. But the larger and most important themes in this film presented themselves over many years and many, many drafts – especially once my brother Abraham joined me in the writing process.
Abraham and I spent years mining the deep truths of the music, story and characters – some inspired by our own family, including our grandmother’s experience as a New York, Jewish, lesbian, photographer and cinephile who went deaf after taking antibiotics in her 60s. She (Dorothy Marder) was an intense, inordinately intelligent, orphaned alcoholic who – already a loner – found herself further trapped between two cultures, the hearing and the Deaf, without the means to connect to either. She spent the rest of her life petitioning to get films captioned. This film is dedicated to her memory.
I also drew heavily from my own vivid memories as a child growing up in a spiritual community home in rural Massachusetts. The teachings of this community where I was raised were those of a man named Gurdjieff, whose philosophies became very important to the film’s narrative. It only dawned on me years into the writing process that for the first ten years of my life, my weekends were spent amongst a community who worked together in absolute silence.
Although the road to shooting Sound of Metal was absurdly difficult, it is clear to me now that every turn it took, every false start and disappointment – no matter how tragic at the time – led me to a film that I believe is far better for it, especially as it pertains to the cast. Finding Riz Ahmed for the role of Ruben was both unexpected and utterly revelatory. He exhibited the sort of commitment to process that is frankly rare in an industry that likes to stack projects and “stay busy.” Four months prior to shooting, Riz moved to Brooklyn to work with me, learn the drums from scratch and learn ASL by working intimately with the Brooklyn Deaf community. He sank himself into a deeply emotional and physical process that I think he would describe as life-changing.
I shot the film chronologically, which allowed the actors to fully experience the various emotional turns in the story. It is my feeling that as much as possible we should encourage real life in our films, rather than remove it. The live music in the film is literally played live, as opposed to having various musical parts shot separately to be cheated and mixed later. We committed to the bravery of real, raw experiences rather than false polished perfection.
It was important to me that the film was genuine and visceral in its approach, and that this story provide a window into a culture and way of life that encapsulates so many people: Deaf, hard of hearing, and CODA (Children of Deaf Adults). In order to create an authentic experience of deafness, Riz wore custom devices in his ears that emitted a white noise of varying intensity, thus allowing him to experience the closest approximation to progressive deafness that we could simulate, including the inability to hear even his own voice.
We think of films as make-believe, and to some extent they are. But I lived this film in a myriad of ways and I asked everyone who worked on it to live it too. My hope is that watching Sound of Metal is a visceral experience that you remember less as something you watched and more as something you lived.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.