Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Sound of Metal

Heavy metal, pin-drop silence and everything in between scores Darius Marder’s story of a broken man learning to adapt to a new and uncomfortable way of life. 

Sound of Metal film still

When metal drummer Ruben first realises his sense of hearing is failing him, it hits him like a freight train. In one moment there is sound, in another, silence.

It feels unfair, like a cheap sucker-punch thrown without a chance to brace for impact. It’s in this moment, where a shocked Ruben shifts his jaw just to hear something, that the consistent and unrelenting message of Darius Marder’s Sound Of Metal is revealed to us – that none of us can ever go backwards.

The world presented to us in Sound Of Metal is, with no pun intended, a very quiet and delicate one. By way of both subject matter and technique, the film is very content letting every scene breathe and steep in the open air for as long as is comfortable, not just necessary.

No significant exposition is ever dumped into anybody’s lap, and a great deal of faith is put in our hands to infer the significance of the four years of mutual healing Ruben has spent with his partner and bandmate, Lou.

From offhanded mentions of an absent father to unacknowledged self-harm scars, Sound Of Metal is a hand-me-down world full of characters who are all the more vivid and realised for how little they are expected to explain of themselves.

Perhaps second only to the arresting, painful and immensely understated performance of Riz Ahmed, the sound design of Sound Of Metal is its greatest weapon. Sound, and the lack of it, is used as a shotgun and a scalpel in alternation.

Moments of nauseating, unnatural distortion are only granted such power due to the jarring, frequent periods of silence, where only the sound of your own breath punctuates Daniël Bouquet’s pensive cinematography.

Sound Of Metal is not necessarily a film about deafness. It’s more concerned with the uncomfortable truth that is the march of time and the ways we all change.

As Ruben rages against his burgeoning deafness, first with ignorance and then with anger, it becomes clear that his greatest fear is not a future without sound – it’s leaving behind a past of music, of voices and of hearing. And yet, as Ruben learns to accept, that future was never his enemy.

Learn more

Sound of Metal is being screened at the Showroom Cinema from Monday 17 May.

More Film

Bo Burnham: Inside

Hilarious, intimate and intense, Burnham has produced what will surely become a seminal piece of ‘Covid years’ art.

Reviews in Retrospect: Battle Royale

Still serving as inspiration for films and video games, in some ways the afterlife of Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 cinematic masterpiece is no surprise.

Palm Springs

A fresh take on a tried and true genre convention, Palm Springs shows that necessity is the mother of re-invention.

Reviews in Retrospect: A Kind of Murder

In Andy Goddard’s 2016 adaptation, the precarious line between fantasy and reality is explored within a murky landscape of moral ambiguity in small-town Texas.

More Film