Low-key and intriguing, Berberian Sound Studio is a flawed homage to the seventies Italian horror movies. It follows Gilderoy, a British sound engineer who finds working on his latest movie increasingly difficult. The first half of the movie is both engaging and entertaining. The second half follows Gilderoy’s descent into madness. Throughout that entire time, I kept thinking just how good this movie would be with a tighter narrative. However, there’s enough quality here to warrant a viewing. We will see how sound editing worked back in the seventies and just how creative you had to be. The dubbing seems straightforward enough but the creation of sound effects was something really interesting.
This isn’t the only good thing about Berberian Sound Studio. We will also see a clash between two very different cultures, British and Italian. The shy but very professional Gilderoy will butt heads with passionate Italian producers. Slow and deliberate pacing created a very immersive atmosphere. This is something very important when we’re talking about period movies. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that sound editing was just pure perfection. I think that one of the main inspirations for this movie was oddly enough Alucarda, a Mexican movie. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any Italian nunsploitation movies because there are plenty. Along with a fair number of Japanese ones. I leave you to explore the genre at your peril. Remember, Satan is watching you!
Gilderoy is a meek English sound guy who just got the job with the prestigious director Santini. He thinks that the movie The Equestrian Vortex is about horses. However, when he arives in Italy he finds out it’s in fact a brutal horror movie. At first he finds the change of scenery refreshing but after a while starts to feel homesick. And the Italians keep avoiding to pay him. To add to these mounting problems, the production keeps getting stalled. Because of all this, poor Gilderoy will soon start losing his grip on reality.
The cast of Berberian Sound Studio is also one of the reasons why you should check it out. Toby Jones was great as Gilderoy, along with Cosimo Fusco. Two of them carried this movie even when it became too pretentious and tedious towards the end. The last twenty minutes are just one surreal mess. Too bad they didn’t think this one through as it had huge potential. Any of the sub-plots could have been a great influence on the main one. However, it’s not worth crying over spilt milk as they say. If you’re looking for similar movies I must recommend Blow Out. This 1981 thriller starring John Travolta features a tight narrative and same obsession with sound editing. Old school sound editing to be more precise.
Finally, I just want to clarify a couple of things for those who are not horror movie fans. There’s no graphic violence or gore here. There are some really gnarly sound effects but once you realize how they are made you will find them funny. The genre Strickland explored here is called Giallo, which means yellow. This refers to the cheap paperback on which these stories were printed. Something like Penny Dreadfuls in the United Kingdom.
Director: Peter Strickland
Writer: Peter Strickland
Cast: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore LI Causi, Chiara D’Anna, Tonia Sotiropoulou
Fun Facts: First film in 35 years for actress Suzy Kendall.