Film Review : Berberian Sound Studio (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.3
Rotten Tomato – 83%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Peter Strickland
Starring – Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, and Chiara D’Anna

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

Horror is a genre that I find myself very amateur in. I’ve seen the essentials but have yet to really delve into the subculture that is the horror genre. Naturally I’ve missed some of the cult favorites that came out of Italy in the 70s. I think the only Italian horror film I’ve seen is Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and to be honest I’m going to have to watch that again because I didn’t find it that great. Perhaps it’s a taste thing. Maybe it’ll develop over time. Peter Stricklands’ film is almost an homage to these films but strives for something original in the process. The film centers on sound engineer Gilderoy who is played with such subtly by Toby Jones. Gilderoy is hired by a bunch of pompous Italian filmmakers to engineer the sound for their horror film.

To be honest, I really didn’t get most of the film. I have some theories but ultimately the film is up to interpretation. It’s a slow burn. I actually had to finish it in two sittings. The reason being that the majority of the film is focused on the actual work of Gilderoy. There are long steady shots of Jones focusing on the audio being piped through his headset from the sound booth in front of him. His steady hands reach for the soundboard to manipulate the screams coming through. It’s a sensory driven film. Naturally the audio in the film is top notch as most of the tension and creepiness is taken from scenes involving the actresses’ blood curdling screams. Gilderoy, who is visibly disturbed by such a film, reacts with such subdued emotion but his eyes show how much discomfort he is in listening to such sounds.

The second half of the film, if you can get there, takes a very sharp right turn as if David Lynch was behind the wheel. This is where the essence of the film is felt as we are probed to decide what we are watching. Debates on how the film ends and what has been actually happening are divided arguments. I personally don’t have an idea of what was going on but it was fun ride getting there. Perhaps I’ll revisit it. It’s certainly an ambitious and unique take on the horror genre.


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