Review by Cole Groth
Documentary filmmaking is often overlooked as a lesser medium of entertainment. As a film critic, I’m embarrassed to say that I also stray away from documentaries, but I’ll reconsider this perspective going forward after seeing 32 Sounds. From Oscar-nominated director Sam Green, this immersive experience explores the human connection of sound and stands apart as one of the best documentaries in years.
Sam Green follows up on his promise through the title of 32 Sounds. He presents the audience with 32 unique auditory experiences, ranging from sounds within the womb to the silence of the night. Some sounds are abstract, and some are incredibly common, but they’re all uniquely profound. Supported by a score from JD Samson, Green’s calm narration takes viewers on an odyssey.
It’s easy to think a documentary like this would be pretentious. Trying to capture these shared experiences often traps directors into making assumptions about the world that simply aren’t true. However, Green takes a nuanced approach to these broad generalizations and explains sound’s universality with simplicity, making it wildly entertaining.
Plenty of the 32 sounds Green explores are a lot of fun. We see the different ways that artists use sound in their works, highlighting the incredible medium that is sound. Documentaries too often feel like they’re made by people who simply find the topic interesting. Green has a connection with the use of sound that transcends this. He manipulates audio to shift tones numerous times, making this a fun and emotional experience.
Toward the film’s end, Green takes a sharply emotional twist and revisits voice memos from his deceased relatives. While the first hour is great, the last half hour is an absolute masterpiece. It’s rare to find a director so in touch with emotions; it is undoubtedly fresh air.
With sound being the core of this documentary, Samson has a lot to stand up to with her score. Fortunately, she brings magic to the calm narration from Green and enhances the experience across the board. Her synth-heavy score is endlessly engaging, and mastery shines through each piece.
32 Sounds is nothing short of masterful. It’s the type of documentary that will shift your worldview and stick in your mind long after the credits roll. It’s a joyous exploration of the power of sound that is effortlessly delightful in its presentation. This is not a film to be missed.
32 Sounds releases in theaters starting April 28.