Eye For Film >> Movies >> Sound Of Violence (2021) Film Review
Sound Of Violence
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
It’s the silence that hits you. Right there at the start, when you’re waiting for the musical cue that will carry you into the world of the film. You wonder for a moment, if something is wrong, if the film is playing properly – and you get just a tiny hint of how traumatic it must be to experience sudden hearing loss.
Alexis (played as a child by Kamia Benge) lost her hearing in an accident. We meet her some time later, when she and her mother have learned to sign and begun to develop the habits they need to communicate in day to day life. Alexis’ father, however, is not a part of that. The kid is nervous about seeing him. He’s been away at war, come back with psychological problems, as so many people do. A tense family dinner follows, a situation that would be difficult enough for a hearing child who didn’t have trauma of her own to deal with. Later that night, Alexis is caught up in an incident of shocking violence. The impact is such that her tympanic membrane is affect and she unexpectedly recovers her hearing. She also experiences synaesthesia, something so intense that she will crave that feeling for the rest of her life.
Flash forward. Alexis is now a young adult, a music student and composer. Her work is all the more urgent because the fragile state of that tympanic membrane means her hearing loss might yet return. She’s looking for the right sounds to enable her to create her masterpiece, and she just can’t forget that childhood experience, that sound of violence. Having learned the fragility of flesh, her focus is on finding something eternal in art. Inevitably, she goes in search of further experiences that can fulfil her need.
Hang on a moment – is this yet another film with a disabled villain? A black, lesbian disabled villain at that? Well, yes but it’s more complicated. For starters, Alexis isn’t living with a disability in the present (at least not most of the time), just with the fear of one, which is enhanced by the act that she was never part of a Deaf community so maintained a mainstream, wholly negative experience of her difference. The film was in fact made in consultation with Deaf communities and the portrayal is a sensitive one. Secondly, she’s not a straightforward villain – and both black and LGBTQ+ communities have praised the film for presenting such a complex intersectional character without requiring her to be a saint. One never gets the feeling, when watching it, that her morality is in some way compromised by her minority status – just that she’s a person who thinks about the world in a unique way.
Is it unique? There are shades of 2013’s Discopathe, 2018’s The Sonata and 2021’s Out Of The World, all of which link music and murder. This one is distinctive largely because of the down to earth approach it takes and the ease with which Alexis, in many other ways, comes across as ordinary and sympathetic. Much of this is down to Jasmin Savoy Brown’s excellent performance but it’s also present in the script. Indeed, Alexis doesn’t rush to do harm, instead starting out with a couple who do bdsm, an option curiously overlooked in many such tales, and going further only because it fails to live up to her expectations. When her path becomes complicated by sexual jealousy, it gives us an insight into the emptiness in her life and another angle on why her synaesthetic experiences are so overwhelming.
Few horror films focused on those who commit violent acts go to anything like this much trouble to give them genuine depth. Sound Of Violence doesn’t exonerate Alexis, with a grotesque denouement which has garnered a lot of attention in horror circles (though more is implied than shown directly), but it’s an intriguing character study which invites viewers to consider her actions in context. Part of the Frightfest 2021, it's a stylistically innovative, intelligent piece of work.Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2021
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