Emotional beats: a ‘Sound of Metal’ review

ACCEPTANCE+OF+DEAFNESS%3A+Amazon+Studio%27s+recent+release%2C+%22Sound+of+Metal%22+explores+the+story+of+a+drummer+that+discovers+he+is+going+deaf.+

Amazon Studios

ACCEPTANCE OF DEAFNESS: Amazon Studio’s recent release, “Sound of Metal” explores the story of a drummer that discovers he is going deaf.

By Carter Martin, Carlisle Area High School

I don’t think I can remember a time where I didn’t hear it.

The ringing.

The noise nobody but me could seem to hear. I couldn’t stand it. I had no idea what it was at first, but it was loud, and it was getting louder. I told myself it would just go away, but even back then I don’t think I believed myself.

When I was nine it got worse, I was having hearing problems, so I told my parents. They took me to a doctor and I was officially diagnosed with mild hearing loss in my left ear, specifically of low tones, but they said it would get worse. I didn’t think to tell them about the ringing.

The next year I learned to play the drums.

It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? The kid who’s going deaf picks the instrument known for causing people to go deaf. But it made me happy, I wore earplugs and kept going.

I turn seventeen in 6 months, I haven’t stopped drumming since. I’ve played countless hours of drums each year and I love it, I love music. I love hearing music, I love making music, even if that music is hurting me. I keep drumming, I don’t stop, not for any reason.

Official Trailer

I drum to keep myself focused

I drum to disengage

I drum to make something beautiful

I drum to be loud and ugly

I drum to declare my love

I drum to release my hate

Drumming is my outlet.

And no matter what it means for me, I can’t just let it go, not right now.

I’m going deaf, but the only thing I can do to fix anything is the one thing I refuse to do. I’m sealing my fate and acting like it’s some sort of unrelated incident because I’m unwilling to let it all go. I feel like nobody understands what I mean.

Until now.

Last year I heard about Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal while I was scrolling through Letterboxd in my chemistry class. I read the description and I couldn’t take it. My eyes started watering and I clicked the “Add to Watchlist” button.

As my ringing became more prominent, mostly due to me beginning to prefer the quiet moments in life to the loud crashes I was once in favor of, I thought about Sound of Metal more and more, constantly checking the release date and comparing it to the current. I was waiting and waiting for any sign that I would be getting it soon; eventually, the trailer came out on September 24. I watched it on repeat for an hour. I couldn’t stop crying.

In late October, I tweeted an open letter telling Darius Marder about who I was and why his film meant so much to me. The mere existence of this movie made me more comfortable with being open about myself.

I am a drummer, and I am going deaf. That was the general feel of it, I hit post and kept refreshing to see if anyone who followed me saw it. Not many people really read it, but the ones who did were really kind to me and I was glad to be sharing my life a little bit.

Through Amazon Screenings, I got to see it early, and I’m so grateful.

I love this film. It’s just everything I could’ve possibly imagined it to be and more. I barely even know what to say here, but let me try my best.

The screenplay by Darius and Abraham Marder is perfect. I won’t be getting too deep into spoilers (as the film has not yet officially released at the time of me writing this review) but everything feels so real. There’s never anything feeling forced or out of place, and it never feels too slow or too fast. It very well might have the most perfect pacing out of any movie I’ve ever seen. Scenes never rush to the point or drag on past their rightful end, leaving time for the audience to feel the emotional beats without letting the emotions fade away.

One scene, in particular, discussing addictions to sound is just so perfect that I can’t even describe how much I love it. Without glamorizing deafness, the Marders use the idea of a community based on learning to love your deafness to show a story about learning to love and accept who you are.

Now onto the part everyone raves about: the editing. Sure, the visual editing is great, with shots flowing together seamlessly, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about sound editing.

The sound design is absolutely incredible, with the highs and lows of the ringing hitting so close to my own that I couldn’t tell if it was me or the movie. The perfect contrast between the silence Ruben hears and the noises from everyone else makes Sound of Metal a disturbingly aggressive watch. The sounds of the cochlear implants are incredible, and rather than just dim the sounds and put fuzz over the dialogue, they choose to make the sounds overlap and rush together, while still playing with the tones and pitch of the noise around him.

From research on cochlear implants, people who have them seem to cite the biggest problem to be adapting to hearing so many overlapping, indistinct sounds when in crowded settings, and this is shown beautifully. I applaud the sound designers; they’ve put in so much work and it’s paid off.

As you’ve probably heard, the acting is exceptional. Riz Ahmed delivers one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. With sign language, he’s able to evoke emotion most actors only dream of being able to with spoken words.

His hands aren’t the only parts telling the story though; his voice is still just as packed with emotion as every movement, every line hits like another punch until you’re broken down in tears at the slightest breath he takes. I was really sold on Ahmed as an actor post-Nightcrawler, and I’m all in on him now. What a mind-blowing performance. Everyone else is awesome as well, with Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci in particular being faces I’d love to see more often.

This movie is just so unbelievably good, with the final shot somehow being the most impactful moment in a film that feels as if it were designed to impact me. I love it so much, and it’s a perfect ending to what is now one of my favorite films.

To everyone involved, thank you for telling this story of acceptance and love, I think you’ve truly crafted something beautiful here. You’ve made hearing loss seem less like a burden and more like just another way to live. Knowing about that community of love and hope brings me comfort.

I am Carter Martin, I love movies, and I’m a drummer. My hearing isn’t great, and I know it’s only going to get worse.

But for the first time in my life, I think I’m okay with that.

This story was originally published on Periscope on November 23, 2020.