STOP10: Death of the Sound Man // อวสานซาวน์แมน by Sorayos Prapapan

Death of the Sound Man shines a light on two sound designers, working on the final mix of a  short film. Their struggles are finally heard in a playful but deeply intimate and introspective manner. The film by Sorayos Prapapan has travelled to numerous festivals and picked up a slew of awards along the way, premiering first at the Venice International Film Festival in 2017 and had visited our shores for the Singapore International Film Festival in 2017. It also recently screened as part of the 22nd Thai Short Film and Video Festival 2018. So if you've been following the festival circuit the title would be familiar to you by now.

The short film starts off with a crowd pleasing tone, as a sound man tries to create foley for a blowjob scene. It's a clever scene that uses the comic trope of oversized props in a quite obvious manner, but the absurdity of the situation never fails to garner a great deal of laughs. It also makes the characters instantly lovable. 

Underneath the jokes however, is the slow uncovering of invisible injustices. It comes with no surprise to see that the film raises questions about the common man’s voice being heard in Thailand. Many other works from this region have volubly spoken up about censorship and freedom of expression. The film itself also grows into something more than simply a satirical look at the character's lives.

This somehow makes the film also instantly accessible and relatable, despite the seemingly niche and specific world of film sound designing. It’s an odd mix that somehow works, fleetingly showing the procedures and processes that they go through, whilst making human observations about taxes and the nature of work and labour in a beguilingly charming way.
That said, I do think film buffs and industry people would get the most mileage out of the film, and perhaps that frank specificity explains the film’s success on the festival route.

The film almost demands that you watch and listen carefully, with a strong observational construction. It would be somewhat amiss to call it documentary-like, but as the film grows it threads a fine line and becomes less intimate and more objective and wider in its scope. It's even done in the shots as well. You start off with a very comic close up sequence and gradually out into a zoo or park and finally on a large sound studio. It really seems significant that as we understand more about the character’s plight, we also feel them becoming smaller in the frame and in society in general, that invisibly bears down on them.

They speak candidly about their delayed pay and the governments misuse of tax funds as they work. The unbroken, cyclical nature of capitalist exploitation is a hot topic of conversation and repeats throughout the film. In recording sounds in locations, the younger sound designer asks ‘Do we need to re-record these sounds every time?’ Having already seen them gone through some lengths to record sounds, such as the comical blowjob opening scene, we’re then reminded that their work is meant to be invisible. Burt adds that their job if not done well, ‘might distract their attention from the film’. Then he reminds us yet again of the exploitation their labour, by comparing how in Hollywood there are bigger teams and budgets, dividing the work into separate teams, whereas in Thailand they have to take on the bulk of the work on their own between just the two of them.

Yet despite all their efforts, they still have to chase their clients for their livelihood, and they further complain at length on how the government seems to be wasting their money. I haven't seen any other films talk about how the country's taxes are wasted on the purchases of submarines and over-chlorined water, just to give you a sense of the film's unique identity and mix of humorous but political tone. 

Death of the Sound Man is therefore painfully empathetic and esoteric through its specificity of its characters that the messages become loud and clear.  So, if you haven't seen this short film, catch it here:

Written by Rifyal Giffari
Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form