"Green," which appears over the movie's end credits, features all outtakes and was a collaboration between two brothers.

By Shana Naomi Krochmal
February 12, 2021 at 08:00 AM EST
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Riz Ahmed and the quiet, striking indie film Sound of Metal continue their slow and steady march into the awards conversation. 

After picking up a Critic's Choice nomination for best original screenplay on Monday, the pair of brothers who directed and co-wrote the film are adding to that drumbeat a new music video for the closing credits number "Green," which was recently short-listed for the Academy Award for best original song. 

In Sound of Metal, Ahmed plays Ruben, a punk-metal drummer and recovering addict who begins to rapidly lose his hearing. His girlfriend and bandmate Lou (Olivia Cooke), battling her own demons, helps Ruben find a sober deaf community, where he struggles with how to adapt to his new reality. 

"It's been a really long journey — and even longer for [director] Darius Marder, who started working on this movie 13 years ago," Ahmed told EW last week just after finding out he was nominated for a Golden Globe. "It's something that has been so close to his heart — a little family that formed over this intense, low-budget shoot that took place against the odds."

Marder, an earnest and thoughtful documentary maker who wrote the screenplay for The Place Beyond the Pines, made his feature directorial debut with Sound of Metal — and he co-wrote the screenplay along with his brother Abraham. Abraham, in turn, wrote and performed "Green," and the video is composed solely of outtakes from the movie's 2019 shoot. (Costars including Paul Raci and Lauren Ridloff make appearances; in keeping with the fim's rich and complex sound mixing and commitment to accessibility you also hear — and read audio descriptions for — natural sounds in some scenes.)

Darius (left) and Abraham Marder
| Credit: Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

"Making a credit song for Sound Of Metal was terrifying," Abraham said. "I actually told Darius on multiple occasions I didn't think it was a good idea. I didn't want to be the thing that violated the sacred silence our film spent two hours building towards."

Even these five minutes of added footage are a carefully curated selection from the cutting-room floor. "We did shoot a lot," Darius tells EW, laughing, estimating a total between 400,000 and 500,000 feet of 35mm film, or between 70 to 90 hours' worth of footage. "I worked for so many years on this script with my brother to create a foundation that's so rugged that you can play on it." 

He compares the process they went through to parenting: "Your kids know they're not going to wreck you. They know you're there, you're solid. You arrange a shoot so that it can be unbreakable." Ahmed and Cooke prepped for almost eight months, learning a highly specific musical genre and, in Ahmed's case, both how to drum and how to communicate, even improv conversation, in American Sign Language. "I knew exactly what I wanted, and we got that," Darius says. "It wasn't the kind of thing where you figured it out on the fly." 

Then, they shot for about a month — all in chronological order, with no rehearsals. That level of control reflects Darius' verité philosophy as a director. "It's about capturing actual life on the screen. Filmmaking, by definition, often squelches life. But that life is more important than anything else — perhaps even more important than a rain machine or a crane shot."

It also represents the biggest risk taken by Darius: that he could elicit a greater performance from his star by withholding exactly what Ahmed most wanted. "When I met Riz, I could see someone who obviously had a ton of talent — but he's a control freak." So Darius didn't let him watch dailies, or experience the off-kilter imbalance created by in-ear devices that muffled his hearing. 

"That was a wild and wonderful gamble," Darius says. "What I take credit for is recognizing that the profound journey that he could go on, that would really maybe afford him a breakthrough, is to be put in a position where he had to relinquish control. Not in the normal sense of making a movie, where you might have those moments where you forget yourself. This was actually on purpose."

Credit: Amazon Studios

"Green" (Nonesuch Records) can be heard on all major music platforms where to listen. Watch Sound of Metal on Amazon Prime Video.

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