Quite likely the first caper comedy to pit a tone-deaf policeman against a gang of anarchist musicians, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson’s Sound of Noise is a light, crisp bit of cinema imported from Sweden.
Expanding the duo’s 2001 short film “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers”, the story lightly spoofs police procedurals as it follows the antics of conceptual composer Magnus (Magnus Börjeson), music academy reject Sanna (Sanna Persson Halapi), and their band of outlaw percussionists as they perform Magnus’ magnum opus, “Music for One City and Six Drummers”. Using the city itself as their instrument, the group plays concerto’s four movements by slipping into certain areas (a hospital, a bank, a concert hall, and a power plant) and performing guerilla improv music with whatever items are on hand. (Think Bader-Meinhof filtered through a Stomp-inspired flash mob, but with a sense of humor.)
Enter Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson), a cop who was born tone-deaf into a family of prominent musicians, of whom his brother is a world-class composer. Being non-musical and having the name Amadeus is bad enough; add in his lifelong outsider angst that resulted, and it’s no wonder he hates music. When a metronome is found at a crime scene, it puts him in pursuit of the gang with the intensity of an ex-girlfriend turned stalker. “They’re musicians, and they will strike again,” he declares at one point.
Though the story is occasionally dry, Simonsson and Stjärne Nilsson overall manage to balance the straight-faced satire and absurdist plot, and flesh out what could have been a one-note premise. The late-entry romance subplot feels out-of-place, however.
The musical “crimes” are cleverly staged (with the gang wringing fresh beats from a heart monitor, paper shredder, construction equipment, power lines, et cetera). For all its anarchic glee, Sound of Noise is never mean-spirited. Instead, it demonstrates its love of sound with a devil-may-care flourish that permeates the entire movie.