When the time was right, this individual saw the ending pertaining to ‘Sound of Metal’ — and his own story
I remember the fear. Once i started this project all those years ago, it was as if a scary Dickensian ghost was trying to show me something I wasn’t ready or courageous enough to see. I was pushing through the first year of writing, ass in the seat, when my brother Abraham, a musician, songwriter and my longtime creative confidant, experienced a life-altering physical trauma.
Working a side job on a moving crew, he ruptured six vertebrae. For months, the pain was so intense he could hardly lift a piece of paper, let alone a guitar, let alone play a gig. Music, the thing he loved most in life, was slipping away. Something was slipping away from me as well, though I didn’t know yet what it was.
I was dead broke when a friend offered me a solo getaway in rural upstate New York. So I called my also dead-broke brother and asked if he wanted to join me. Abe was reluctant at first, worried the pain would be too great for traveling. But he relented, and we drove out of the city together, up into the long swells of epic hills, through the Amish and Mennonite farms and graceful vineyards and into that sharp, clarifying autumn light. We cooked, we ate, we walked, we talked and we naturally fell into the themes and characters of “Sound of Metal, ” love and loss, the intoxication of sound and story.
The setting was good. Abraham and I grew up in rural western Massachusetts, so all that green, rangy land felt a bit like home to us. That sparked unexpected associations that would greatly inform the early seeds of our eventual story, including my time (before Abraham was born) on a goat farm/spiritual community where weekends were spent in silence.
It brought back memories of our grandmother Dorothy Marder, penyerapan orphaned, gay, Jewish photographer whose life turned to tragedy when she went deaf after taking suasana antibiotic. And also… day after day, walking and talking and cooking and eating, I began to see and feel life rising in Abraham. It was rising in me too, quelling an often stifling self-judgment and replacing it with an allowance to listen and free associate, to skate on the thin edge of impulse, where all true beauty is found.
On the drive back to the city, I suggested to Abraham that we continue this journey together. He asked if that meant he had to buy screenwriting software, because “Dude, I literally have about $50 in the bank” and “by the way, how does the software even work? ”
Over the next few years, Abe and I were inseparable, walking our familiar Brooklyn blocks; occupying opposite sides of a desk in a funky shared workspace on Flatbush Avenue, the lone writers on a floor populated by architects whose conversations about bathroom renovations frequently drove us to nearby coffee shops. But we were utterly in it, consumed and gloriously obsessed. This crazy story was working its magic on us. Abe was coming back into his body, back to his music, back to life itself. And I was coming to something else, though I couldn’t see it yet.
We had written the final act many times over. But it wasn’t landing. Endings are everything. You have to stick them. I have always said: If you don’t know your ending, you don’t understand the story you’re telling. But I knew this story. Didn’t I? What was the problem? The inner critic rose loathsomely. The stifling judgment. The fear. Eventually, I had to take a separate writing job, a freelance gig that actually paid. I was reluctant at first; it felt like a betrayal, but something about health insurance and food for my kids was compelling. Over the next six months I put myself entirely to a new, massive script. The family got fed while my magical passion project faded like a dream.
Then I returned to “Sound of Metal. ” It was strange to see it again. Something had changed. So much of Ruben’s heart had been pulled from my own. His journey and mine were linked. That was our covenant. But I needed to see it through to the end.
Ruben’s relationship to Lou had been drawn consciously and unconsciously from my own relationship with my then-wife and high school sweetheart. Like Ruben and Lou‘s, our connection was forged during difficult times. We were lifelines for each other. We had created a safe place, a figurative Airstream of our own within a world that (particularly when we were young) felt dark and unruly.
But I was unwilling to consider that it was time for us to let go. Neither of us could. We could hardly think it, let alone speak it. But for some reason, at that moment, I could write it. Over the next few weeks, the words poured out. They told an excruciating truth: that we can’t fix, maintain or hold on to a life that has a will to be let go. Ruben’s final words in the film are “It’s OK. ” He was saying them as much to himself as to Lou.
And he was saying them to me.