Berberian Sound Studio; Review

I wondered if I’d missed something after Berberian Sound Studio. I couldn’t doubt I was left with a sense of dread and terror, but I only liked it once I figured out the story was unclear to create something far creepier; a man in a battle for both mind and morals.

The film follows timid sound engineer, Gilderoy as he starts work in a social, yet cut-throat Italian Horror Studio. He’s easily manipulated due to the language barrier, and his goal to get the cash back for his flight has him shunted through several departments and turned into a little mouse. His colleagues feel like something from Frankenstein’s lab, and the director who hired Gilderoy remains absent a long while, making something seem very, very wrong.

I first assumed Gilderoy was hired due to his talents, but we don’t see him do a lot for a while. He’s later asked to show his special effects, which are quite cool, but came across as more party-tricks than practical powers. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a darker reason as to why he was there.

Gilderoy has to watch ever worsening clips of women being killed, and starts to object to making the sounds. In an interview on the DVD, director Peter Strickland suggests Gilderoy refuses to make the sounds to save the women, his first step towards confusing film with reality.

The film gets weirder and weirder, and I won’t ruin the surprise, but say life and reality combine in bizarre ways. I wondered if the crew were using Gilderoy’s fright to make a better film, or perhaps the film was a supernatural being, with Gilderoy as a sacrifice. I decided the film defies reason and no conclusions can really be drawn. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, in fact, I’d say it makes it work. We feel as Gilderoy might feel as he loses his mind, and finally his morals when he tortures a girl with his sound to get a good scream, bringing him down to the same level as the womanising director.

You might be put off watching a film you can’t truly understand, and to be honest, I normally would. In this case, Peter Strickland said something about enjoying the film not the story, that if we can embrace the sounds, images, and bubbling terror on our skin, we can have an intense experience. With this in mind, Berberian Sound Studio is one to watch with the lights down low and the sound cranked high, just don’t let get to you as much as Gilderoy.

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