"The Sound of Summer"
review by Diablo Joe
"The Sound of Summer"
The people of Japan describe the piercing, incessant din of their seasonal insect population as “the sound of summer.” Cicada has become a part of the Japanese culture and mindset, indelibly linked to the country’s oppressive, mind-numbing summer heat and humidity. Cicadae are both beloved (catching them is a long-held childhood pastime) and an annoyance to the
“The Sound of Summer” is the first feature from the mononymous auteur filmmaker Guy. His film follows a young woman, identified only as “The Protagonist,” working in a small café in an unnamed Japanese city. The repetition of her day-to-day life and job becomes upended by the arrival of a mysterious, mute client in her shop. Face hidden by a scarf, bearing a catching net and numerous insect cages, The Protagonist and her coworker dub him “The Cicada Man.” Soon, incited by the ceaselessly droning “sound of summer,” The Protagonist begins to convince herself that this Cicada Man has placed the insects into her body. As her mental state unravels, she attacks and mutilates herself in a quest to prove her suspicions correct, drawing herself closer to a terrifying and unnerving truth.
With “The Sound of Summer,” Guy has delivered an unsettlingly effective entry into the body horror genre. His film opens with a raucous, thrashy metal song over the credits. But this blast of musical energy segues into scenes of an almost numbing mundanity as we follow The Protagonist through her typical life as a young Japanese woman. The first quarter of “Sound” is so blandly ordinary that “slow burn” is perhaps too vivid a term to describe it, and it almost lulls us into “no burn.”
As the shrill summer buzzing of the cicadae around her begins to drive The Protagonist into a fever pitch of paranoid obsession, the film starts to wrap the audience in her madness. As she scratches and probes into every place in her body to rid herself of the insects she is convinced are inside her, our view of the story becomes more and more hallucinogenic. Guy’s increasingly disorienting wide-angle extreme closeups and manic visuals perfectly capture The Protagonist’s disjointed mental state as she uncovers The Cicada Man’s secrets.
But it’s the filmmaker’s use of sound that grabs us brutally, dragging us into this spiral of psychosis. Guy has found a perfect collaborator in electronic musician Microchip Terror, whose nightmarish soundtrack, combined with Guy’s cacophonous sound editing, captures perfectly the inescapable madness anyone who has spent extended time in cicada country experiences—only tenfold. And on acid.
As timidly as the film opens, it closes with a phantasmagoria of surreal imagery that is simultaneously savagely unsettling and strangely poetic. “The Sound of Summer” might compel some to attempt to interject all sorts of sexual symbolism into it (after all, it is the male of the species alone that is responsible for the cicada’s monotonous song) or ponder just how much of the horror we witness is real or just The Protagonist’s madness (an answer the film potentially clues us into midway through). But this film should be best experienced by an audience willing to let it suck them into its feverish miasma of terror and paranoia. Or maybe it will leave them with no other choice.
This devil of a reviewer gives “The Sound of Summer” 4 out of 5 imps.