A woman gets into a horrific car accident and as a result loses her hearing. Isabelle Pisano is a photographer and has to figure out how to navigate her life since her hearing loss. In the independent short film ‘Sound’ in what can be described as a thriller, once Isabelle’s hearing comes back to her, the trouble truly starts.
We see and hear everything through Isabelle’s reactions. From the shower running to the cacophony of a bird flying by, there is a sense of what people tend to take for granted. What is considered white noise can be the most terrifying of sounds to someone regaining their hearing. Director, cinematographer and writer Tawan Bazemore expertly manipulates the use of music and sound throughout the film. You’re constantly in a heightened state of hyper-awareness.
Then there’s actress Crystal Porter-Bazemore as Isabelle. Her performance haunts you. As scenes cut between before the accident and coping with her hearing loss you experience everything, yet are unprepared for when her accident is shown. Reminiscent of the scene in the 2006 film ‘Frida’ where the title character experiences an incident in her girlhood that reshapes her life, emotionally, with the slow upturn of an old-school camera in the car, you’ll be gasping and clutching your imaginary pearls. What happens to Isabelle is that quick and unexpected. Then there’s a moment of brief joy as well as celebration. The musical score constantly plays with your emotions by giving the viewer moments of hope, then quickly snatching it away as Isabelle has to contend with noises all coming to her at once. There aren’t lovely birds singing or insects communicating. Instead it’s the roar of emergency vehicles. Even the car Isabelle drives feels more like a coffin of sound than a refuge. It’s all too much. Still beauty and horror exist simultaneously. In each shot there’s a dichotomy between what sound is supposed to do (warn us, help us remember pleasant experiences) and the sense memory that may lead to acts of desperation. Making the ‘Sound’ perpetually keeps you off balance for nearly fifteen minutes.
The now amplified noises that were barely recognizable early on in the movie coincide with a continuous buzzing. It’s like tinnitus and as it increases you find yourself drawn into Isabelle’s anxiety. Then the tide turns from thriller to horror. Bazemore has presented a situation where within mere minutes you go from thinking about what if you lost your own hearing, to holding your breath and finally finding yourself screaming out loud. Horror films tend to summon to the surface what we fear the most, which can lead to a cleansing moment. It can also lead to misdirection. You would think in ‘Sound’ the horror aspect would be Isabelle losing her hearing. After all how can a fully grown adult smoothly transition from hearing to near-complete deafness? The best types of horror will give you one of those twists that you never see coming. ‘Sound’ does that. That ending will stay with you, it’s that good.