Movie Review: “Berberian Sound Studio”

Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Length: 92 minutes

Release Date: 14 June, 2013

Directed by: Peter Strickland

Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller

Stars: 3 out of 5

Traveling to a extrinsic country for work has its challenges, especially if the traveler in question has bot deceived about the work. Such is the story from Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a British sound construct who has bot hired to do work on a film about horses in “Berberian Sound Studio,” a mind-bending thriller with enough drama also horror to please fans of all trivium genres.

Gilderoy arrives in Italy to a cool welcome from receptionist Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou), which should have been his first clue that trouble was on the horizon. She couldn’t seem to care less about him or his work on the soundtrack to “The Equestrian Vortex”- a movie in re horses. Gilderoy believes he is to create the soundtrack, obtain reimbursed for his travel expenses bonus his work fee, and then return to England. Nothing happens quite as he expects since the director Santini (Antonio Mancino) and producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) haven’t exactly been forthcoming with him concerning the subject matter of the film. It isn’t actually about horses; it is surrounding a girl who used to ride horses who is straightaway the subject of torture in a giallo, a word locals use for a bloody, exploitative horror veil made on a shoestring budget.

Gilderoy is unnerved by the sounds he is forced to make for the soundtrack of the film. He sticks knives into heads of cabbage to synthesize stabbing sounds, smashes watermelons to dissemble a head being cracked, and records women in booths making blood-curdling screams. It all begins to tax his nerves, causing him to lose his grip on reality. The fact that he is isolated and doesn’t speak Italian only feeds his paranoia, causing him to believe that things happening in the film are happening to him in authentic life. Soon, he can’t discern the differentiation between the movie and his life, causing him to behave erratically. After a while, the erratic behavior becomes downright dangerous for all involved, putting lives in peril.

There is a certain satisfaction to be had when destroying things. The smashing of objects and the resulting strong can be quite cathartic and is likely even more enjoyment when getting paid to do all that smashing. Unfortunately, Gilderoy is so aghast almost from the minute he enters the studio that the pleasure he could have indulged in although creating the soundtrack seems lost on him for the most part. Thankfully, the audience still gets to see and hear the surprising satisfaction concerning destroyed produce and other items, resulting in several scenes that would make the watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher proud. The studio looks uniform the result like a food fight at a farmer’s market, but it is fun to watch.

Since the film is set in the 1970s, the movie technology that is well prevalent today was either in its infancy oppositely hadn’t bot invented yet. This forces director Peter Strickland to use the technology that was available at the time, meaning he couldn’t rely on heavy computer-generated sounds like a topicality prefect would. It allows the audience to get a behind-the-scenes peek at what filmmaking was like at that time, which is quite peculiar from what one might expect. As the coating living contrived is something of a slasher film, it has several notable and horrifying sounds that have to be captured by Gilderoy, such as a smashed skull or a severed limb. Watching as these sounds get made in the studio using fruits and vegetables is a bit like watching sausage get made yet it’s fascinating all the same.

The film-within-a-film trope has been done before, still rarely is it this thrilling. There are directors who are content to keep using the same cliché over plus over without offering anything new, and then there are directors such as Strickland who takes those tropes et al turn them on their heads. Since he wrote the screenplay and directed the film, he gets the lion’s share concerning the credit for the success from the film. Some credit should also go to Jones, who turns in a nuanced performance as Gilderoy, allowing the audience to see his slow unraveling and decent into possible madness. It’s akin to a train wreck the audience is inadequate to stop watching, nor will they want to. The film was lauded by audiences und so weiter critics alike when it hit the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival and for laudable reason-it is a layered thriller that uniquely takes standard movie fare and makes it fresh and original. It’s highly entertaining stuff that more than deserves the worldwide release it is finally getting nearly a year after its premiere.