on 19 October 2013
This is a strange film and a pretty decent horror to boot. An English sound engineer travels to Italy to work on a disturbing horror movie. He doesn't realise it's a horror film he's working on until he gets there and finds himself being drawn into the violence that he's recreating.
The film is well paced with a gradual ramping up of tension and towards the end it gets gets very strange. As well as being an entertaining story it's also an interesting watch. His job is to recreate the sounds of various nasty scenes, the techniques he uses to achieve these make for an interesting watch in themselves.
Another aspect I enjoyed was the lack of shock or visual horror, apart from a few glimpses it's all in the audio and not in a surprise fashion, in places it is downright creepy, which always get's my vote! In summary this is a decent horror watch, and something a little different from the usual tropes.
It’s hard to think of a more desperately disappointing recent film than Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, which, on the one hand, is well acted and directed but unfortunately wastes its unusual setting and potential to create something genuinely unnerving. The chief culprit is the lack of story and, strangely enough for a film about an unassuming British sound engineer (Toby Jones) out of his depth in Italy and increasingly fraught and alienated as he dubs a 70s horror film, a lack of unnerving atmosphere. Aside from his attempts to get reimbursed for his flight out and the increasingly frayed nerves and culture clashes with the film’s producer and director, that’s pretty much it for plot until he finally starts to lose himself as he becomes a part of the film – not the narrative (we only see the title sequence) but more the mechanical texture of the post-production process. What starts out as something initially intriguing unfortunately increasingly adopts the occasionally tedious and repetitive nature of foley and ADR work as the dubbing and mixing process drags on and on and it becomes more apparent that apart from offering the always impressive Jones a chance to slowly unravel the film isn’t really going to go anywhere. Which is a shame, because Strickland clearly has talent and an interesting visual sense (though the use sound is surprisingly comparatively unadventurous) and the film recreates the early 70s Italian horror milieu well, but until the last couple of reels the lack of any real narrative or drive makes it feel like an overlong DVD behind the scenes special feature instead of a real movie.
That impression is inadvertently reinforced by the DVD and Blu-ray special features which cover the making of the film in some depth: audio commentary and half hour interview with Peter Strickland (who finds more to say over the stills gallery), 46-minute making of documentary, nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, the two short films that inspired the feature (one by Strickland the other the Box Hill short featured in the film) and trailer.
on 7 March 2013
As someone who is a big fan of horror, and British, Im always interested in new British horror films. This film caught my attention because it is set aganist a backdrop of 70s Italian gore horror, referencing the style of directors like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, both of whom I really like. The story is about a talented English sound engineer, with no experience of horror films, who is employed to work on a very gory horror film being made in italy, by an increasingly sinister team, and the experience of creating sounds for such extreme horror, acts of torture (which we only hear, we never see) leads to a growing sense of dread and unease, culminating in a gradual breaking down of his sanity. But much of the film is about the importance and the power of sound itself. It is not a gory film, and not really a horror film, but it is very disconcerting, chilling, and gripping. It is brilliantly concieved, with excellent acting and strking art direction, beautifully directed, and as much a mediation of the nature of sound itself. Shades of David Lynch too. I loved it!
`Berberian Sound Studio' is set in 1970′s Rome, Italy. The studio is working on a new film called `The Equestrian Vortex'. The films director Santini (Antonio Mancino) hires Gilderoy (Toby Jones), an English sound engineer who had previously worked on children's television programmes and natural history documentaries.
Gilderoy assumes that the Italian film was about horses, but when he is greeted by the films producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) he discovers that the film is actually a horror movie. With typically English stiff upper lip, Gilderoy dives into an environment completely alien to him. Clearly out of his depth, he's further unnerved by working in a new country with no grasp of Italian. Gilderoy is manipulated by everyone, from the utterly serious Francesco to the lecherous Santini, and even by the moody secretary Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou).
But Gilderoy knows one thing very well, and that is sound. At the mixing desk, he reigns supreme. He watches over and controls the voices of the actresses Claudia (Eugenia Caruso) and Elisa (Chiara D'Anna) who provide the dialogue and countless screams; the assistants who simulate the violence on screen by slashing and whacking all manner of fruit and vegetables; and creating many of the sounds himself from his own vast repertoire. You appreciate the sound engineers craft from Gilderoy's numerous charts, his maps of how sounds and effects will be layed over the visuals.
Gilderoy clearly relishes his new environment, but equally appalled by it. The uncomfortable subject matter inevitably proves too much for this mild mannered sound engineer, a scene involving a red hot poker and a nun providing the psychological catalyst to his own breakdown. Fantasy bleeds into reality, sounds and dreams blur into each other to form a paranoid nightmare.
`Berberian sound studio' is a very clever film, the workings of a films production is focused through the ears and eyes of a sound engineer. Much of the film is quietly dark and darkly comical, you won't tire of listening to watermelons being slashed and twisted and radish's snapped, or watching actors making peculiar facial expressions to make even stranger noises. The claustrophobia of working and sleeping in the studio brilliantly feeds into Gilderoys state of mind, the ever dependable Jones giving yet another fine performance.
Sound is at the heart of the film, from its production to recording and mixing. Gilderoy harks back to a golden age in British television and film with the the pioneering special effects works of Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram et al for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Their sound experiments helped to shape modern electronic music and are still revered by musicians, its a fitting tribute to see their experiments' influence in this film.
The opening sequence which introduces you to the `The Equestrian Vortex' is one of the most startling opening scenes i've ever seen, a superb amalgam of sound and visuals. You never get to see any of the actual horror film, but you still feel you are watching it through listening to the dialogue and sound effects of the production. Its a clever manipulation, further still by seeing the violence within the horror film through Gilderoys eyes.
Director Peter Strickland doesn't just concentrate on the analogue sound of the 70′s but pays a great homage to many films of the time, not least the Italian Giallo films which `The Equestrian Vortex' is based upon and made famous by the likes of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. With so many sound and visual markers, so much attention to detail, its quite amazing that you are never overwhelmed by this film. Such is Stricklands skill, he even gets the name of a fictional film right, `The Equestrian Vortex' is a fantastic name for any film. I could go on and on, there is so much to admire in `Berberian Sound Studio', I can't wait to see it again.
This is many ways is paying homage to those seventies horror films that are really in a genre all of their own. The studio of the title is where unassuming sound engineer, Gilderoy (Toby Jones `Harry Potter') arrives. He has only done nature films and children's television before but as this is called `The Equestrian Vortex' he assumes it is a horsey thing. When he questions the enigmatic director Santini (Antonio Mancino) he is told `this is not a horror film, it is a Santini film! So he gets on with the job in hand.
The problem is that the men helping him are at most barely cognisant or one is totally hostile. He decides to plod on and the cast are far from fan boys themselves. We see an array of vegetables getting smashed, dropped, ripped apart or stabbed to the flickering reflection coming from the studio screen. Our senses are heightened still further by the use of the sound board, so we know what is taking place on the unseen screen as say a witch is having her hair pulled out or a multiple stabbing is taking place as an unsuspecting cabbage get the `Psycho' shower scene treatment.
All of this is taking place amidst the seeming constant background noise of screaming. As the film gets more and more to Gilderoy, the more his reality seems to get mixed up in the happenings of the film. I also noticed that there is a tension both actual and sexual that is volatile through out and I think as most of the action takes place in the studio, this gives it a claustrophobic hue which adds to both a feeling of intimacy and immediacy.
This is a film that will stay with you, not only will you never look at a vegetable quite the same way again, but it has a power to come back into your mind for some time afterwards. I really liked it but almost exhaled in relief when it ended, which on reflection is some achievement for a film that rolls just over an hour and a half. In Italian and English with sub titles in all the right places. For fans of Italian horror as this makes a brilliant companion piece and for people who like films off the beaten path this is one to add to your collection.
on 28 November 2013
I bought this film on reading a review in the radio times on missing it on the telly.I prefer small budget films opposed to the bigger lavish productions as i feel the soul and hard work are more evident on the small scale films. But i should have known in buying films in the past that i am easily disappointed in such films as they lack a good ending or something else. Toby jones is perfectly cast here & all the other actors & actresses are good as well. The real problem with this film is that it should of gone on another 20 minutes or so to give the film a deserving proper outcome. I loved guildroy but i needed to see him suffer real paranoia & fear. I needed him to bear his soul to the camera.But like so many so called "art house", "low budget masterpieces" before it, it simply falls short and i'm once again left feeling disappointed.On a more positive note there are some real touches of genius in this film. The scene where one of guildroy's nightmares morphs into his lovingly crafted Box hill nature short is just brilliant & toby jones as a whole is really wonderful in the part, it just needs more as a film. It needs to take us closer to the edge of our seats & our minds. It's like they all ran away & thought it's not a serious film anyway let's just end it like this. That's too easy.
This 2012 film written and directed by British film-maker Peter Strickland provides an innovative, though, for me, not altogether successful, take on the 'psychological horror' genre with its atmospheric focus on the making of an Italian 'giallo horror' film. Strickland, who achieved notoriety for his impressive Transylvania-set 2009 feature debut, Katalin Varga, and its troubled financing and production, here eschews the wild exteriors of the earlier film and instead sets his story of Toby Jones' sound engineer, Gilderoy, whose services have been enlisted by Italian giallo director Giancarlo Santini (Antonio Mancino), entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a 1970s Italian film 'studio'.
What follows is an absorbing, visually and aurally impressive exploration of the process of film sound dubbing and of Gilderoy's psyche, as the apparently never-ending series of sadistically violent scenes in Santini's film (curiously entitled The Equestrian Vortex) to which Gilderoy is required to add the dubbed 'special aural effects' (melons being cleaved, marrows splattered, etc), begin to oppress the sound-man's mind (and, indeed, sanity). Jones (in my book, one of the finest of the current crop of British actors) is excellent as the reserved, understated, kindly 'Brit abroad', Strickland cleverly contrasting his 'hero's' demeanour with that of his exuberant (and increasingly sinister) Italian 'colleagues', and further emphasising Gilderoy's 'innocence' via the letters he receives from his mother, which talk of an idyllic suburban home-life and 'chiffchaffs nesting in the garden'. Elsewhere, Mancino adds some chauvinistic hubris as the director Santini, full of 'artistic pretence' ('This is not a horror film - this is a Santini film!'), Cosimo Fusco as the officious and curt 'studio manager', Francesco, is (for me) less convincing, whilst 'studio assistants', the enigmatic two Maximos and the surly Lorenzo, add to the unsettling atmosphere.
Where Strickland's film scores particularly well for me (appropriately enough given its subject matter) is in its look and feel, where it is never less than intriguing. Cinematographer Nick Knowland does a great job in creating an oppressively claustrophobic atmosphere, plus some (surprisingly) disturbing close-ups of pulverised fruit and vegetables and plenty of nostalgic shots of all that analogue recording equipment. In addition, the film's soundtrack, courtesy of the British indie band Broadcast, is suitably evocative and haunting.
Jones' brilliantly idiosyncratic performance has a number of highpoints, as he stalks the corridors of the film studio rather like the Coen brothers' Barton Fink, a man 'out of his depth' and subject to 'persecution' at the hands of bombastic studio men. One such highlight, for me, is the stunning dream sequence, in which Gilderoy has become engulfed in his 'nightmare film' before being thankfully released into a Box Hill idyll, resplendent with the sound of chiffchaffs calling. It is rather a shame that Strickland could not carry this momentum through to the film's 'transcendental' conclusion, which I must admit I found somewhat underwhelming. Nevertheless, Berberian Sound Studio remains a pleasingly original work in these days of multiplex mundanity and in its director has one of the most promising in the current crop of UK film-makers.
All the actors especially Toby Jones are excellent the whole feel of the film is very atmospheric and the sound which plays a predominant roll in this is very well done.
I liked the humour that surfaced periodically throughout the picture and was fascinated with the change of the main character if it did seem a little rushed (and the use of vegetables in the making of horror films).
It builds up the tension well but for me the ending was a disappointment and a bit of a cop out.
I can see some people really liking this film and I can see their point particularly for the first three quarters, but personally I felt it started to go wrong just after the actress trashed the studio and what was with the business of the non-existent flight from Heathrow?
I was rather bemused with the last reel and this has turned me against the film as a whole.
on 7 April 2015
Whoever has compared this film to anything by Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch needs their review handle reset. I like Toby Jones but this film is totally overrated ponybits. Very disappointing. Not really that weird, not at all strange, nowhere near frightening... just really really slow with boring shots of vegetables & a pretty woman screaming & the twiddling of audio equipment. Could have been really good. It wasn't. Don't waste your time or money. It's seriously bad....maybe you like bad films...I do...but this isn't funny bad. Just plain common or garden earthworm, bad.
on 22 January 2014
A British man is hired by an Italian company to produce the full sound mix and effects for their latest Giallo offering.
What he doesn't realise, however, is the eccentricity of just about everyone involved in the project.
The life he's living begins to interfere with the film he's helping create the sound for, and in true Lynchian fashion the two blur, so it's hard to distinguish between the two....
The horror film of the year, that many people don't consider to be horror, isn't just one of the stand out films of 2012, it's a veritable lecture for anyone who has an interest in sound editing.
But the film has so different meanings, and depending in what mood your in, it offers different connotations to what is going on.
Is he simply a weak man who is being taken advantage of?
Is he a slowly having a mental breakdown due to the images he sees on screen that he believes he is becoming part of the film?
Or is all of this just in his head, while he is in a place where he is sectioned?
No matter what you think, it offers very different explanations to questions asked. Is he writing those letters? are the majority of the people there real? Did he fly to Italy?, or is it simply some big conspiracy so the studio don't pay his airfare because of the increasing budget of the film?
Jones, as always is brilliant, and in the last seven years, he has proved he is not just one of the best British actors alive, but one of the best actors on the planet.
The directors choice not to show any of the imagery from the Giallo film is genius, because the mind can be more scarier then what you see, the original Haunting movie used mainly sound, but this just cranks it up to 11.
It's a very un-nerving experience, and some scenes are very unpleasant, but it's a feast on the ears, and the small set just makes the film that little more intense.
well worth seeking out.