SXSW Review: ‘Euphonia’


Update: You can now watch Euphonia for free on Vimeo. Check it out here!

Euphonia is a film by Danny Madden that screened at SXSW this year that reminded me of something I would have seen by my classmates in our final year of college. 

Not that that’s a bad thing.

It’s an experimental, 55-minute film that relies heavily on imagery and ambient noises rather than dialogue. As the story progresses, the sounds get bigger and louder, disorienting the main character, (played by Will Madden) almost as it does the audience.

The story is about a high school kid, who, like every other kid is bored and looking for some kind of stimulation. He finds it in a high-end audio recorder he buys when he’s working at the local department store. He soon starts recording everything – everything – and as he does, his world gets smaller and more insular.

The recorder quickly becomes precious to him. It becomes like his lifeline. But why has he become so attached? Is it a metaphor for our use of cell phones and technology? The film never tells us but they way things turn out, it seems likely.

Most of the dialogue is muted but what you hear – besides the soundtrack – are life’s noises that we usually don’t pay attention to. When there is actual dialogue, you struggle to hear it and for me, the novelty wears off about halfway through. I’d almost wished that there wasn’t any at all after the recorder was introduced.

The teens in the film (which also include Maria DeCortis and Benjamin Papacare) are true teenagers,  – all zits and gangly – and their performances were real and authentic, especially from Will Madden. It’s tough to work with no dialogue and he pulls it off. 

The film is shot beautifully but unfortunately it doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no real story or plot and after a while the gimmick just grinds to a halt.

All that being said, I think Danny Madden is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He’s inventive and smart and I’m going to love to see what he has up his sleeve for his next outing.

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