Berberian Sound Studio

20 Feb

berberian sound studio

Director:

Peter Strickland

Writer:

Peter Strickland

Stars:

Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Suzy Kendall

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 92 minutes

Giallo horror films emerged in the late 1960s, flourished in the 1970s and fell away by the 1980s. They were Italian films based on the yellow (‘giallo’) covered paperback books with crime and mystery themes. In moving to celluloid those novels took on a heavy dose of sex and depravity. Strongly psychological, giallo horror films typically had extended murder sequences (forerunners of the modern slasher movie). Films such as Torso and Deep Red were and remain disturbing. In Berberian Sound Studio Peter Strickland pays homage to giallo horror and delivers a similarly uncomfortable ride.

Toby Jones is Gilderoy, an unassuming English sound engineer hired to work on a giallo horror film in Italy in 1976. He is unsuited to the task at hand and out of step with the rather laid back and mysterious Italians in and around the studio. That said, he does get stuck into the work at hand laying on the sound effects to a violent film about witch trials and black magic. Gilderoy smashes rotting fruit, stabs fresh melons and records endless screams from local actors. He adds texture to the horrible images that are projected off-screen.

The unravelling of Gilderoy, a quiet man isolated in a foreign land and deeply affected by the sick and twisted film that he is working on, is the heart of this film. As such his dream life starts to overlap with his real life and we the audience are given little help to identify where the dividing line sits. There is a strong dose of David Lynch running through this film and Strickland does well to conjure up an unsettling ambiance in the style of Blue Velvet and Lost Highway.

Peter Strickland is a UK writer-director to keep a close eye on. His first film was the spell-binding Katalin Varga and whilst this second effort is not as impactful, it is still a very clever and original film. There is enormous skill on display here and fantastic performances from the dependable Toby Jones and others including Fatma Mohammed (as actress Silvia, a formidable screamer). The use of sound is particularly smart as might be expected; it provides visceral shocks. The tone is foreboding and sinister and it is all very creepy if not completely intelligible.

One Response to “Berberian Sound Studio”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. British Horror has never sounded better: Berberian Sound Studio 17 March! | splendidcinema - March 5, 2013

    […] Berberian Sound Studio (smallscreenreviews.com) […]

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