Signal Horizon

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{SXSW Review} The Sound of Violence

What does violence feel like? How does it taste? Does it have a smell? More important for writer/director Alex Noyer, does it have a sound? Does that sound then translate into feelings and is it possible to replicate those feelings. The Sound of Violence offers a terrifying journey into a world populated by violence and the people that may be seduced by that violence. The Sound of Violence is frightening, inventive, and offers a villain who is as compelling as she is monstrous.

Alexis Reeves (played with a demented intensity by Jasmin Savoy Brown of Leftovers fame) is a sound engineer in training who splits her time between creating interesting sound designs and attending music classes. Her infatuation with sound stems directly from a youth spent in silence suffering from a disease that robs her of the ability to hear. Even when she cannot hear she can perceive “the sound of violence” by the colors it creates in her mind when she witnesses it. Now that she can hear she is obsessed with recreating those colors in her mind. As Alexis takes more risks in her sound mapping, her victim count rises as well.

The Sound of Silence
Courtesy of  You Know Films

Brown captures the ghastly nature of an expert working outside of professional ethics. While Alexis gets more experimental the film embraces the growing macabre nature of her tableaus. The film expertly navigates the pitfalls of these scenes which always feel scary but never feel trite. Without such visionary directing this film could devolve into a series of Saw like experiments where the torture exists only to titillate, rather the movie taps into something more primal. The Sound of Violence lets us all listen to our own innate desire to watch (or in Reeves case hear) the violence around us.

While I think the movie certainly has some heavy elements we never feel overwhelmed by it. Our own voyeurism is an element of the film, it is never THE element of the film. Moreover, the film feels just as consumed with the lasting power of trauma that impact the victims as it does with the exhilaration that perpetrators get from committing the acts.

The film would simply not work without a fascinating sound design and the visual component of hearing the noise of violence. Both work exceptionally well. The sounds of Reeve’s victims come together to form an authentic music experience that is both creepy but deeply disturbing. As other students listen to one of her compositions we share in their horror as they learn exactly what is going on with her ‘music’. If these scenes didn’t feel as authentic as they do. If they didn’t really feel like art, than the entire movie would feel fabricated. There are no facades in this movie, just a terrifying exploration into one person’s genius.

I have always felt jealous of artists. People who look at the world through a craft persons eyes (or ears in this case). They are different from me. They are more skilled and gifted when working within their chosen mediums. I don’t possess any of their talent or ability but I do possess the ability to be moved by it. Its this evocative nature that is so deeply unnerving and one that this film embraces.

Art seems to be as close to the supernatural as we may discover and continues to tap into the horrific nature of the sublime. Its in this area between art and insanity that The Sound of Violence operates expertly within. If pain creates art, why not create better art by creating more pain. The film asks questions whose answers are deeply unsettling. The Sound of Violence acts as a dreadful terrifying muse for the parts of our own humanity we dare explore.

Check out all of our SXSW coverage here.