SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! When she was 10-years-old, Alexis regained her hearing after witnessing the murder of her family. Now, in college, Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) uses music and sound to highlight how people can potentially communicate. But, upon learning that her hearing is degrading once again, Alexis does the unthinkable… she begins killing people nobody will miss (the homeless, etc.) and recording it.
Listening to these deaths allows her not only to hear but visualize, a la synesthesia, the noises of these people’s final moments. All the while, her relationship with her best friend is unraveling at the seams, as her love for Marie (Lili Simmons) remains unrequited as her friend begins dating Duke (James Jagger). This sends Alexis down the spiral even further. With cops investigating all the dead bodies that are popping up, there’s only so much time until Alexis must choose between losing her freedoms and friends or her passion for music by never being able to hear again.
Sound Of Violence marks writer-director Alex Noyer’s feature-length debut. The story comes across as the “torture porn” genre as filtered through a dangerous, obsessive romance. Noyer excels at creeping the audience out, masterfully introducing more and more eerie moments until the explosive first on-screen kill the lead commits. The editing, by Hannu Aukia and Vertti Virkajärvi, sublimely intercuts the murders with the sublime look of ecstasy washing over her face and the bold, vibrant splashes of color she sees with each stab. A harp player’s grisly demise shows off the impressive special effects in a gruesome way and is one of the most enthralling scenes here.
“…upon learning that her hearing is degrading once again, Alexis…begins killing people…”
Jasmin Savoy Brown is luminous as the murderous but overjoyed musical savant. Her enthusiasm to share her experimental sounds with her class is palpable, as is her heartbreak at their hatred of it. Brown ably goes from acting meek to being calmly in control and dangerous, ensuring the character’s motivations for killings are believable. She shares lovely chemistry with Simmons, and their friendship makes sense, as does Alexis’ desires for something more. Jagger is good as Duke, with an amusing quip about finding his sound being especially funny. But when things get more serious, the actor delivers there as well.
Of course, in a film titled Sound Of Violence with this kind of a premise, the sound design and editing are of paramount importance. Jussi Tegelman and the other recording and foley artists hit it out of the park, as the sound work here is in a class all its own. As Alexis hears more or less, so too does the audience. An incredibly nerve-racking moment happens when the sound drops out, save for a low hum, and Alexis races out of the classroom, unable to hear what the others are saying. She’s shockingly sympathetic despite her murderous ways, and scenes like this allow viewers to understand her, even when they don’t agree with her actions.
However, Noyer’s screenplay falters as the conclusion draws near. The ending begs several questions that need to be answered to create a wholly satisfying journey. It also introduces a plothole or two; well, a confusing plot hiccup at the very least. No spoilers, so that is all the elaboration one will get. However, the finale does feature some jaw-droppingly impressive make-up effects that are the best in the entire movie, which is a high bar.
Sound Of Violence is a fascinating study of the reasons people will commit barbaric acts for personal gain. Brown makes a cold-blooded killer sympathetic, which is no easy feat and the editing and sound design are flawless. Too bad the ending feels so rushed and is somewhat confusing because the violent odyssey before the last five minutes is worth going on.
Sound Of Violence screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…the sound work here is in a class all its own."