Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal (2020) is a film about many things: severe hearing loss, grief, community, and sound itself. These themes cohere through its narrative but find even fuller expression in the film’s sound design, as FQ columnist Benson-Allott argues in this article. Unlike most films with Deaf or deafened protagonists, Sound of Metal makes frequent use of subjective sound mixes that represent the protagonist’s sonic perceptions. By contrasting subjective and hearing-normative sound in their design, Marder and sound supervisor Nicolas Becker demonstrate how sound’s power exceeds its auditory range and social uses in hearing culture. They show their audience that, as neglected as sound may be in contemporary film culture, it still contains cultural biases that audiences must learn to hear. In doing so, they encourage viewers to reconceptualize themselves as auditors and reappraise sound’s role in their personal cinephilia and within the cinematic experience more broadly.
Listening to Metal
Caetlin Benson-Allott is Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of English and Film & Media Studies at Georgetown University and editor of JCMS. She is also the author of The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television (2021), Remote Control (2015), and Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (2013).
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Caetlin Benson-Allott; Listening to Metal. Film Quarterly 1 June 2021; 74 (4): 62–67. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2021.74.4.62
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