I’ve suffered from anxiety all my life. It’s an insidious illness that’s never the same for two people. For me, loud noises can trigger an episode that ruins weeks. People shouting are the worst. Sound of Violence, the debut from Finnish-American filmmaker Alex Noyer, had me shaking like a leaf in the corner of the room. I could barely move, yet I refused to look away. In the blinding terror is the searing voice of a horror maestro fine-tuning his instrument for the first time.
Jasmin Savoy Brown plays Alexis, a traumatized young woman who suffers from synesthesia. She experiences sounds as visual stimuli, but only when triggered by acts of extreme violence. A crushed kneecap or battered skull is literal music to her ears. Now, she seeks to complete a work of pure ecstasy; music composed of violence.
Brown is remarkable in the part. There’s every reason to hate and fear Alexis, yet she remains compelling for the longest time. Her childhood is defined by an unspeakable act, directed by Noyer with horrifying perfection, that Brown carries on her back like the weight of the world. It’s a beautifully internal performance, communicated through heavy footsteps and perpetually tightly wound muscles.
Noyer’s restraint is equally impressive. A lesser filmmaker would splurge on the gore from the start. Here, it takes a good half hour before the first kill. These setpieces are eerily reminiscent of the Saw franchise, yet Noyer shows only enough to imply. Even as one of the bravado setpieces fills an entire room with gore, Sound of Violence doesn’t feel gratuitous.
Sound of Violence is one of the most impeccably sounding and edited films I’ve seen all year; let alone from a debut feature. It has a grandiose nature, which brilliantly captures how loud the world sounds to someone hurting mentally. The pulsing soundtrack envelops the viewer. As an audiovisual experience, it’s unnervingly sophisticated.
At just over ninety minutes, I’d argue it’s a touch too long. There’s a cat-and-mouse element with the police chasing after Alexis that feels unnecessary. But just when I felt my attention waver, Noyer pulls out all the stops for a climactic third act that is equally sweet, terrifying, and tragic. It has elements of Shinya Tsukamoto’s genre-defining Tetsuo: The Iron Man in the best way possible.
Sound of Violence is a thrilling debut. It understands its medium beautifully, which allows it to tap into such well-deserved fear. Even when it feels like it’s about to fly off the rails, Noyer’s smart direction and a tender performance from Brown ground it in place.
There are the beginnings of a grand career at work here.