The 2021 Best Picture Nominees: Sound of Metal

| April 23, 2021

At last!  After, arguably, the strangest year in movie history, The 93rd Academy Awards are almost here – just 9 days from now.  And to get ready, I’m taking a look at each of the eight films selected as Oscar’s best.  Are they?  Are they really?

Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal could easily play on a double bill with Florian Zeller’s The Father – if we still, in fact, had double bills.  Both are about men who come to the realization that their bodies have turned on them, that the world to which they are comfortable is no longer a place of comfort and safety.  But whereas The Father dealt with a man slipping rapidly into the infirmity of his sunset years (specially due to the onset of dementia), Sound of Metal is the story of a young man facing the rest of his life without the ability to hear – a problem that will effectively end his career as a drummer.

But Sound of Metal is about much more than just a guy who loses his hearing.  It’s an intense drama about the fragility of the tenets of everyday life and the panic when one of the most common is suddenly gone.  A lot of the credit here goes to Riz Ahmed (a nominee for Best Actor) whose familiarity with American audiences might only come from a small role in the Star Wars prequel Rogue One.  But as Ruben, he gives an intense performance as a man both nervous and afraid.  Nervous because the prospects of recovery are almost zilch and afraid because of what he might lose in addition to his hearing.  Marder uses a lot of effective close-ups to let us see the pain and panic in his eyes and we see that Ahmed is a very intuitive actor.  We can always see him thinking.

Ahmed is helped along by the sound designed because, much as Florian Zeller does with The Father, the director Darius Marder wants the viewer to move into the character’s headspace.  We know from the start that Ruben’s hearing is in danger, but what is surprising is how quickly it goes.  Seated with friends, it just . . . goes.  And the movie uses the muffling of the vocal sounds to allow us to hear what he hears, then clears the sound when technology is used to communicate with him.  In that way, we share his experience.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized