SOUND OF METAL has been picking up a lot of press lately, for garnering six Academy Award nominations and for the performance of Riz Ahmed, the first Muslim performer to be nominated for Best Actor. This film, however, stands apart from the typical Oscar fare, and even more from the rest of the movies that have been released virtually over the last year, because it is an experience best had in a movie theater. Sound of Metal’s most important Oscar nomination, then, is one that often gets overlooked: Best Sound. That’s why we’re so thrilled to bring it back to play in the Michigan Theater’s Main Auditorium this Saturday and Sunday and offer you an important in-theater experience.
The film follows punk-metal drummer Ruben (Ahmed) and his inner conflict as he begins to struggle with intermittent hearing loss which, a specialist tells him, will only get worse if he continues performing on stage. This means that his music career and thus, he believes, his life, is likely over. But when he checks into a recovery home for the d/Deaf, he finds a community that accepts him as he is.
This film goes further than simply telling the story of a person struggling with hearing loss; it wants you to experience Ruben’s condition alongside him. It is a sensory experience that uses innovative sound design to “vividly recreate [Ruben’s] journey into a rarely examined world” (according to distributor Amazon Studios).
As director Darius Marder told the Georgetown Voice, “The film is very much about asking us, societally, what is it like for us as hearing people to merge into a culture where we are suddenly the minority.” He does this by making parts of the film audibly inaccessible to us. As Ruben’s hearing begins to dwindle, the sound becomes more muffled and distorted, and he captures Ruben’s fear by recording the audio of his heartbeat, his breathing, and even the blood rushing through his body. The film is an open door for the viewer to step through and connect viscerally with Ruben’s new reality.
And this is what makes the experience of viewing Sound of Metal in an acoustically designed space of a movie theater so much better than watching on an app at home. The theater experience not only strives to alleviate distractions, but auditoriums like the Main are better equipped to audibly cover the space for fuller immersion—allowing you to better step into the experience. And like Ruben who discovers that he is not alone, watching in the theater allows you to share an experience with your fellow moviegoers (even if now you are separated by a safe distance). So, after the film, have a conversation with those you arrived with and discuss how you felt about the experience. It really is one of those films that gets even better after the credits roll.
Sound of Metal pushes forward much needed representation of the d/Deaf community through its sound design; its casting of supporting characters from the d/Deaf community like Paul Raci, nominated for Best Supporting Actor; and by ensuring that all screenings are presented with open captions, so that anyone with hearing loss is able to enjoy the film.
For more on how the filmmakers produced and recorded the film, I implore you to continuing reading and check out this fascinating article from Variety by Jazz Tangcay: How Riz Ahmed’s Body Created an Anatomical Symphony for ‘Sound of Metal’ Sound Design.
I hope you enjoy the film, and we’ll see you at the Michigan & State Theatre this weekend!