The time change from Sunday continues to plague me, but unlike yesterday where it resulted in me following up my evening film with a short, today I’m just exhausted. I did make it through a movie tonight, so I’m not backing down from goal, I’m just going to likely cut the write up a bit short so I can retreat to my bed. Anyway, today’s Oscar nomination watching was one of the two best picture contenders that I haven’t yet watched.
Sound of Metal (2020, Dir. Darius Marder)
Looking at the best picture contenders for the year, a consequence of the pandemic is that the major studios of the most part took a break from shoveling out Oscar bait at years end. This resulted in an extremely diverse lineup in all the major categories and a film like Sound of Metal being one of the most nominated films of the year when in a fuller year it may have been forgotten entirely. I say this not to disparage Sound of Metal, but just to comment on how happy I am that a film a good as it isn’t lost in a sea of mediocre period dramas.
Sounds is one on the fundamental building blocks of cinema, so Sound of Metal’s extensive use of empty auditory space was risky. Early in Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) deaf journey, the moments of silence are unsettling and harsh. This uncomfortable sound design is purposefully. By being subjected to the subtitle free sign language with uncomfortable sound muffling, the audience is asked to share in Ruben’s misery. Once he has learned to be deaf, the sound takes a more welcoming tone. The film still has large periods of silence or muffled approximation of what Ruben hears, but the mix is less harsh reflecting Ruben’s familiarity with his condition. These subtle but distinct sound decisions perfectly enhance the film all about sound or the lack there of.