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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, Sound of Noise (2010)

INTERVIEW with director Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, SOUND OF NOISE (2010)


THE SOUND OF NOISE (Sweden, 2010) screened in competition at the 30th Istanbul Film Festival IFF. Co-directed by directors Johannes Starne Nilsson and Ola Simonsson, this film is a one of a kind experiment of music on film. Many have compared the lively inventive percussionists in the film to the traveling band STOMP but as Johannes explained, ‘well, maybe it’s a bit similar but our band will make music out of anything and unlike Stomp, we don’t dance’. This fresh, funny and fervent film leaves the audience in a state of awe and everyone wanting more. It has now traveled to festivals around the world and continues to receive international accolades.


I interviewed my buddy Johannes in Istanbul during the IFF and I held our exhilarating interview while walking over the Galata Bridge on the Golden Horn. ME: So, how does it feel to be in this grand city?


J: It feels great!


ME: What are your impressions?


J: Well, so far, it seems like Im really in the middle of something. I mean, I’m on some kind of center point. I like that.


ME: Literally too.


[We laugh as we are in the midst of walking over the Galata Bridge]


J: I’m packed with impressions. My brain is starting to get totally full. I need to go to bed soon.


ME: LOL. Is it your first time here in Istanbul?


J: Yes, It’s my first time here and I think it’s probably the furthest east I’ve been.


ME: Really? Wow! So, tell us, Johannes, what are you doing here in the lovely inspiring Istanbul?


J: I’m here with my film THE SOUND OF NOISE, which I co-directed with Ola Simonsson and we’re here in the international competition so that’s a big thing for us.


ME: Have you already had a screening?


J: Our screening is coming up tonight so that’s exciting.


ME: Also exciting is us standing on this bridge with big boats, or big heavy barges majestically sailing beneath our feet. [We laugh hysterically because all around us are sights that make us stop and go ‘hmmm’ or ‘ahhh!’]. So, have you been able to see a lot of movies at this festival?


J: That’s a good question. No, it’s hard to ever see movies. We kind of chose not to because there’s no time when we go to festivals it’s really short and intense and you want to get a feeling of the place you’re in and your main goal is to hold the film in your hand. So, you can eventually let go and let it grow up and be independent and all that.


ME: So, how do you think the Turkish audiences will react to your film? Do you think they’ll get the humor.


J: I’m quite convinced that they will actually. Because now that we’ve traveled with the film a lot and we realize that it’s a film that works all over. Of course, you never know. Maybe they simply don’t share any of our humor whatsoever but I’m not so worried about that. I’m mostly curious if people laugh in different places and the story. It’s fun to see how the audience reacts to different things. And you can tell quite early in the screening, you can sense what kind of experience it will be. But also it’s really exclusive for us to meet an audience live and get their feedback. That is really the reason why to do this thing and you struggle for years and years to make your film and you try to trust your instincts and all of that and then suddenly, you’re there in front of hundreds of people and it’s really the feedback is the payback.


ME: So, how did you come with the idea for THE SOUND OF NOISE? Were you just sick of noise one day and thought, ‘I’m gonna make a movie about a person who really hates noise?


J: And music. He hates music especially. I have to give you the boring version. It actually started with a short film we made called, ‘MUSIC FOR ONE APARTMENT AND SIX DRUMMERS’ that we made almost ten years ago and us… I have to take a picture… [He takes a picture of a sight that renders him speechless and then continues] …and well, photo opts everywhere. I can’t help it. Sorry… So anyway, we made that short and it was a film that was quite related to the feature. It was about six drummers that break into an apartment and perform music in the four rooms on four pieces. And they use household utilities in that apartment as instruments and the reason we did that was simply because we started asking ourselves if we could make music that was actually danceable like real club songs or something. People have made music from other things than instruments for all times but we haven’t seen it in a cinematic context and we wanted to make a film that was really based on images and sound. That was also an experiment and we really thought that this is something that hard core music enthusiasts might enjoy and appreciate…


ME: And even not so hardcore.


J: But it was something that was appreciated widely.


ME: Plus, you find that cinema today lacks respect of music because there is the lack of the soundtrack. So much of the film is soundtrack and yet for many independent films these days, there lacks a soundtrack and it affects the film.


J: Definitely. And also among many filmmakers they are simply not at tradition to spend a lot of time on sound and music. And we wanted to bring this concept into a feature length film with the same ambition to make music one of the leading parts of the film. We had no desire to take the short film and make it a feature but we continued to perform and do live performances with playing on cars with paper and stacks and fork lifts. We made a surprise performance in Cannes. We were there with a short in competition in 2001 and the God of Cannes asked us if we could do a surprise performance at an honorary dinner for Melanie Griffith. So it was in Carlton Ballroom and packed with celebrities and among all the guests in tuxedos and there we were with all the drummers. And at one point during the dinner one of our drummers started beating his glass. You know, he got up and got everybody’s attention. And all the celebrities were wondering, ‘who’s that?’ And our drummer was going ‘bing, bing bing’ just like that and we grew into music so we made a short song there at the dinner table called MUSIC FOR ONE BALLROOM which was a spinoff of our short film. So, we did lots of happenings like that, small performances based on our film idea… now I’m coming to the point very shortly. Doing those kind of performances we gathered so many good ideas so by the end...


ME: …You had a feature.


J: It became irresistible not to make one.


ME: In Sofia, you won the FIPRESCI prize and I spoke with one of the jury members. I had asked him how he felt about your film. He told me he thought yours was the only true great film he had seen in a long time. What can you say about that?


J: The funny thing is I’m not a great consumer of cinema actually, but when it came to our film we were pretty sure what we needed. We really wanted to make a highly entertaining film with lots of integrity and we wanted it to be totally honest to …


[At this point we had crossed the bridge into Sultanahmet and saw some line of boats making sandwiches on the boats to hoards of hungry locals. We stopped to film.]


J: Sorry, what were we saying?


ME: I don’t remember. There are so many sites that just fill you with awe here. I mean, this city is like a jolt for the senses.


J: Exactly. This is a very good exercise to do an interview while you try to digest all of these impressions.


[We break into laughter here]


ME: I know… ‘Tell me about your movie? Movie? …What movie?’ LOL.


[Then we walked through an underpass and ended our interview in hysterics at the site of a hundreds of flying and battery operated dolls amidst a veritable underground flea market full of throngs of people. Johannes marveled over the dolls and I watched, laughing. What a funny sight!]


ME: I think we’re going to have to finish this interview for now. I’ve lost you with the plastic dolls.


J: Yes, to be continued.


Well, the movie is SOUND OF NOISE (2010) and it is a tribute to both sound and noise and I assure you that it’s so innovative and fresh that it’s not like anything you have seen before.


Written by Vanessa McMahon April 19, 2011

Johannes Stjärne Nilsson and Ola Simonsson, Sound of Noise (2010)

Sound of Noise Metronome


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