DVD: Berberian Sound Studio | Film reviews, news & interviews
DVD: Berberian Sound Studio
Toby Jones stars as diffident sound wizard sucked into a schlocky Italian horror film
Berberian Sound Studio has the quirky flavour of an academic treatise on shlock horror with lively slide illustrations. Peter Strickland’s claustrophobic homage to the Italian giallo – in which diabolical dismemberings are perpetrated upon female innocents - would seem an odd leap from Katalin Varga, his brooding revenge drama set in rural Romania. But both films bring an outsider’s all but ethnographic eye to the rituals of Euro-barbarity. The game changer is that Berberian Sound Studio is also funny.
A meek British sound engineer called, improbably, Gilderoy is hired by an Italian film company to deploy his wizardry in maxing up the horror effects on the soundtrack of a cheap flick about occultism. Fruit and veg are pulped and cloven, while in the sound booth specialist voice artists babble and howl in tongues. Being a mummy’s boy whose regular workplace is a garden shed, it’s not quite to Gilderoy’s taste, and his moral discomfort is compounded by the attitudes of his colleagues – chief among them an over-familiar producer and an authoritarian director.
As the diffident oddball loner, Toby Jones is perfectly deployed among an Italian cast featuring rugged men and ravishing women. At first his alienation is confined to language, but soon runs deeper as the atmosphere turns ever more vile and plays tricks with his mind. With half an hour to run, you may wonder where Strickland is going with this, and indeed those who saw it in the cinema and are still wondering can repair to this release’s extras for further elucidation. They feature a director’s commentary on the finished film and deleted scenes, and an extended documentary. A curio about the secrets of cinematic sound, see Berberian Sound Studio and you will never think of water melons in quite the same way.
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