“The character story makes her very likeable while her creations make her impossible to like. I want that conflict to live in the audience”
With its cocktail of pleasure and suffering, Sound of Violence charts one woman’s recovery from trauma by making music out of other people’s pain. Here we turn up the volume with writer / director Alex Noyer to talk viciousness, art and the act of creation…
Key to the film is how Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) turns to savagery for self-healing, even prioritising it over other bright spots in her life. What do you think makes people turn to viciousness, for example online, over trying to help themselves?
I think first and foremost we need to discuss intent. Alexis’ intent is not to kill: she wants to create. Her creative drive has incredible collateral damages but they are collateral, not some sort of blood lust. So her “viciousness” is more her blind commitment to her craft, as if nothing else mattered. Creativity has often been likened to neurosis, as it is a psychological rollercoaster and we regularly hear about the demons that inhabit artists. I wanted to exacerbate that to some sort of worst possible outcome.
Having said that, viciousness escalates with her disregard for consequences: one may say that Alexis has complete disregard and that makes her, perhaps unconsciously, vicious. This is why I built a process of realisation into the story and created the human stakes, such as her friend Marie (Lili Simmons) or her unsuspecting rival Duke (James Jagger). It gives us a marker for the point-of-no-return.
To address the broader part of your question, the world has created platforms of interactions and promoted that lack of accountability and, until the last few years, there was a learning curve for many that they could exhort all they had inside of them without filters. They were sold catharsis without consequences, and that means the viciousness it created escalated. When people say “say this to my face”, it explains the real life framework that we have grown up in. Online there is the dehumanizing of the person being reduced to a handle that somehow negates the social construct and sometimes releases our raw selves, whatever they may come out as. It can bring the best or the worst out of people.
Alexis’ journey to healing through pain and murder brought to mind the leads who populate revenge films. Did you turn to films from that sub-genre for inspiration?
Actually I thought about staying away from a path of revenge as much as possible as there was no enemy. The consequences of the fateful night that created our monster stem mostly from her detachment from the devastation, and is created essentially out of the high she felt when she regained her hearing along with her synesthetic abilities.
Alexis is not angry at the world, she just functions on a different spectrum of stimulus, as many artists do, and that guides her journey.
I thought about movies such as American Psycho, Perfume, Misery and gave it a feel akin to Euphoria and Assassination Nation for the audience to encounter Alexis. I do not ask them to sympathise with what she does, but rather not to rule out sympathising. I feel the character story makes her very likeable while her creations make her impossible to like. I want that conflict to live in the audience.
One moment which sticks in the mind is when Alexis previews her music to her class, only for their negative reactions to leave her crushed, mirroring the fear of putting oneself out there only to meet dismissal. What can be done to quell these fears and encourage others to show themselves artistically?
The problem is there is no way to fully prepare anyone for the dive it is to put art out into the world. Warhol said “art is what you can get away with” and, while he didn’t mean it as such, I always felt it could mean that art is what you are willing to face the world and its judgement with. We grow a thicker skin as time goes but we know that the first few times we get the onslaught of comments, notes and feedback it all feels like daggers. I don’t know what can be done to soften the blows, or if it they should be softened. Response means engagement, and lack of response may be sometimes more painful than the harshest criticism we may receive.
In the film, Alexis walks away from the hostile mob and it made her more determined than before to continue with her methods. That moment sort of takes the handbrake off, as the studio scene proves.
Now in our reality, as filmmakers or creators, going back to your first question, online platforms have galvanized a level of viciousness which makes it all even more testing. I don’t respond to the personal attacks I have received because – like with many monsters – you shouldn’t feed them if you want them to vanish.
The kills depicted are unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere, and it’s fascinating how each one seems to one-up the previous murder with a more unique idea. Was it your intention for them to get progressively more confident, and where did these ideas come from?
Absolutely. The first one may seem the most technical and highlights her long process of experimentation that lead to her escalation. But then the crescendo thereafter is feeding much more off her inner journey, the intensification of the relentless artistic neurosis that drives her. This is where Jasmin Savoy Brown’s incredible performance elevates the experience. Her eyes, her onscreen presence, her chemistry with the rest of the cast and all that surrounds the character make the human element to be the true catalyst of the escalation, rather than the instruments.
The first murder comes from the short film, although I reframed it to a more human scale. Thereafter I focused more on using instruments as weapons and using their core ‘modus operandi’ to deliver the sounds. I swapped the paradigms of music and murder and the research process that it took me through was both frightening and somehow exhilarating creatively. Some murders I came up with didn’t make the story and may return one day, who knows. One in particular was pretty extraordinary but was so big that it would have completely unbalanced the film.
A note on the finale: while my movie references throughout the film seem to have been clear to many, that one scene, despite some comparisons I read (and often loved), had no inspiration from any specific film. It came to me in a dream. I was unhappy with the finale I had written at the time and one night it came to me so I sketched it, to my producer’s and practical effects guy’s gobsmacked “amazement”. Hannu Aukia believed in my madness and Robert Bravo, who I call my blood wizard, helped me visualize it. Our incredible cinematographer Daphne Wu gave it all the emotional feels I sought with that scene. And of course Jaakko Manninen, Alexander Burke and Omar El Deeb’s music mixed in masterfully by the incredible Jussi Tegelman wrapped up the arcane audio experience of this finale. I am so grateful to the amazing team I worked with on this film.
Sound of Violence has its UK Premiere at Arrow FrightFest, 29th August
Dazzler Media presents Sound of Violence on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 30th August
Find it on Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Sound-of-Violence-Blu-ray/dp/B094KGYFH7
UK Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMvF7ttW4oQ