Lavinia Smart (Maia Thomas) is the sole survivor of a suburban train massacre. Graham McGahan (Brendan Cowell) is a cop in suburban Melbourne where another violent murder rocks the community. He lives with his girlfriend, Const. Caitlin Robinson (Katie Wall), but is reluctant to let himself be vulnerable, even after being diagnosed with tinnitus - could it be a sign of cancer? McGahan is demoted to light duties, manning a mobile police caravan, located near the murder scene. Locals are invited to report any signs of suspicious behaviour, but it is clear that the van is little more than a novelty. Biscuits and condoms are offered to the locals as they pop in to chat, abuse the cops and maybe confide. All the while, Lavinia is terrified the train killer will find her and silence the only witness to his crime.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the pleasures of Noise is its defiance of its genre - while retaining some of the thriller genre elements, it uses the structure to say something altogether different. In his debut film, Matthew Saville tries to place the extraordinary within the ordinary: serial killer on the loose and countering heroics reduced to the quotidian, the kind of casual, everyday banality that could also drive the decision to impulse-buy a pair of shoes, say. But there are two difficulties for audiences approaching this film; one is the title, which refers to the medical condition of tinnitus that local cop Graham McGahan suffers from. By elevating it to the title, it is given a greater significance than is warranted by the screenplay. Unless, of course, you come out of the film and try to ascribe symbolic motives -such as the surrounding noise of daily suburban life as the backdrop for unusual, shattering events. But, well, this seems a bit manufactured.
The second difficulty is to do with the film's very strength: its bravery in eschewing thriller action in favour of character watching is also its weak spot, destabilising our expectations.
But by the sheer strength of the work, its originality and the excellent level of performances, Noise overcomes its self-imposed hurdles as it insinuates itself into our psyche. The relatively unfamiliar faces of the cast on our cinema screens is a contributing factor to the sense of veracity. Yet Saville creates a movie reality that is both authentic and cinematic.
All the relationships are well observed, from the flattened romance of live in lovers Graham and Caitlin, to the frictional intra-police work relationships and the robust relationships between Graham and the public who pop in to his post - where some of the film's subtext drama takes place. Noise is an interesting work, notable for its lack of hysterics in dealing with appalling crimes and yet insightful of them.
Review by Louise Keller:
Sound is the central focus of Matthew Saville's tense drama that hones in on life in the Melbourne suburbs, where the routine has been disturbed by gruesome murders. As if to highlight what is to come, Saville's opening scene in which Maia Thomas' teenager Lavinia Smart boards a train, uses the lack of sound to make his point. Lavinia is locked in her own world, as she listens to music on her headphones, oblivious of the carnage around her. It is not until she catches sight of a body falling from a seat, that she realises her plight. By contrast, Brendan Cowell's laid-back cop Graham McGahan is distracted by too much sound. Recently diagnosed with tinnitus, the magnification of everyday noises bother him, as does the fact he is having difficulty hearing.
Saville's script tracks the emotional climate of the community, as McGahan becomes the central point for everyone's angst. The fact that he is needy himself and does not want to confide his fears to his girlfriend, makes his journey even more relevant. Cowell imbues a sense of the ordinary as McGahan; when he takes a long look in the mirror, we know he is trying to asses what kind of man he is. There is a moment when McGahan can no longer stand the pounding in his head, and turns on every sound appliance at home, in a bid to drown out the noise. By way of contrast, in the following scene the bereaved fiancé of the murdered girl tells him 'you're a good listener.' During his two-week assignment on night duty in a caravan near the murder scene, he finds himself both confidant and adversary to a mish-mash of residents, who are curious, resentful and needy.
Much emphasis has been placed on the sound design, ably created by Emma Bortignon, but after a while, the constant sounds irritate and detract from the story. In addition to the ringing sounds that emulate McGahan's experiences, there is an exaggeration of every other sound - from a dog barking, a clock ticking, the creaking of a floorboard, the flicker of a page, the stirring of a teaspoon in a cup and the squeal of brakes. Also frustrating is the lack of resolution to various aspects of the plot, leaving us somewhat floundering in a cyclone of noise.
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MATTHEW SAVILLE INTERVIEW
CAST: Brendan Cowell, Maia Thomas, Nicholas Bell, Richard Cawthorne, Luke Elliot, Simon King, Fiona MacLeod, Henry Nixon, Damien Richardson, Katie Wall
PRODUCER: Trevor Blainey
DIRECTOR: Matthew Saville
SCRIPT: Matthew Saville
CINEMATOGRAPHER: László Baranyai
EDITOR: Geoff Hitchins
MUSIC: Bryony Marks
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paddy Reardon
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 3,2007