Berberian Sound Studio (Film) Review

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Week 2 of Halloween 2016 Month and we visit a very unusual place this time around. This film is definitely a head-scratcher, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Before we dip in I have to say that I’m not sure if my copy of the film should have had subtitles or not. It definitely did not, therefore I never truly followed what half the characters where saying in their native tongue. If this was a deliberate tactic to make the viewer feel the way our main man Gilderoy does while they converse around him, then it was inspired.

Anywhoo. *Spoilers!*

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Director: Peter Strickland
Stars: Toby Jones, Antonio Mancino, Guido Adorni

IMDB Synopsis: A sound engineer’s work for an Italian horror studio becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art.

My Review:

Gilderoy (Jones) is new in town, having just arrived in Italy and also at the Berberian Film Studio. He is under the impression that he’s been hired to work the sound effects (and other Foley work) on an equestrian film.

Further discussion reveals it’s an Italian giallo and the sound effects consist of violent acts against various fruit and vegetables (one scene with a watermelon made me howl). The film he’s working on is called The Equestrian Vortex and it has some witches in it. There’s lots of violence and poor lovely Gil seems naturally alarmed by the goings on around him.

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I want to be this woman more than life

The reception he receives on arrival is not what you’d call warm and fuzzy. The receptionist, Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou) could not give less of a fuck if she tried. She’s fabulous though so whatevs. Other colleagues include Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) who’s perpetually annoyed, a grumpy older sound engineer who hangs around in the background, a couple of odd-looking vegetable botherers and the actresses: Silvia (Fatma Mohamed) and Claudia (Eugenia Caruso).

The director of the film, Santini (Mancino) also hoofs about regularly and gets rather offended when Gil refers to his film as horror. In fact, nobody seems to be that nice to Gil, or anyone for that matter and his attempts to claim back the money he spent on his flight out to Italy fail amid the bureaucracy of the company. (We’ve all been there amirite?)

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“Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…”

Gil receives letters from his mother at home that just seem to exacerbate his loneliness. They tell tale of a nest of birds in her back garden next to Gilderoy’s shed. Gil himself is a nondescript, gentle man who can’t remember the actresses names but knows the name of every piece of kit and microphone in the studio.

As time passes, and his role intensifies, Gil starts to feel more and more disconnected from his life back in England. He’s not feeling the people around him either. Following a conversation with one of the girls about the expenses bullshit, she tells him that you don’t ask for things in the studio, you demand them. On telling the Accounts department he wants his goddamn fucking flight money back NOW, he is told there was no flight, so there will be no reimbursement. (The fuck?)

Gilderoy begins to see and hear horrible and frightening things, has weird dreams and imagines himself in an alternative reality where he is fluent in Italian, and is way suaver than IRL. He learns from Silvia that the director has been taking advantage of his position with her, and possibly others, then she gets revenge on Santini by destroying everything they have worked so hard for on the film.

Another actress is hired in Silvia’s place, Gilderoy’s grasp on reality slips even more and he is forced to question what happened to the nice man he used to be.

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“Calm down love.”

Questions:

Apart from what the fucking hell is going on, you mean? Hmm. Will Gilderoy settle in properly? Will everyone stop being so bad-tempered?

What’s everyone saying?

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“Stop playing with your food, Toby.”

My Thoughts:

This film is beautiful. Honestly, it’s gorgeous looking and has great atmosphere. It’s very serious but made me laugh out loud several times (I’m not sure that was its intention). It’s bat shit crazy though, confusing and nothing really happens. It’s all in our minds, isn’t it?

I feel like maybe I should have had subtitles to catch some of the conversation between the Italians, at least to gain an understanding of why they were all so cross all the time. Toby Jones is amazing, I think I might be in love with him.

I’m really tired typing this so I’ll admit here that there’s probably a lot of symbolism in the film – for example, the ever-growing mountain of rotten vegetation and the reappearing spider – that all adds to the story of the unravelling psyche of our protagonist. But I don’t have the faculties to dig any deeper at the moment. Sorry.

And it wasn’t scary at all.

If you fancy something a little different however, with a good central performance then this might be the one for you. If you’re on the hunt for action, then not so much.

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“Especially for yooooooooooooo…”

My Rating: 3/5. Interesting.

Did my beloved take to this like a cleaver to a watermelon, or did it leave her screaming? Find out here.

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4 Replies to “Berberian Sound Studio (Film) Review”

  1. Ha, there are subtitles for the Italian. Some of the descriptions for scenes are just priceless, including the one about 2 girls finding the witches’ putrefying corpses in a poultry tunnel. Not sure if it was intended to be funny or not.
    Yes, Toby was so great in this, and I really liked the character of Silvia even though she remained fairly mysterious.
    Was really sad about the birds. 😦
    Overall, still not sure what I think of this one.

    Like

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