REVIEW: Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

BerberianSoundStudio

 

Berberian Sound Studio: B

Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a soft-spoken, genius sound engineer who is hired to work on a gory Argento-type Italian horror film in this psychological thriller. You never see a single frame of the movie he’s working on, but the anxiety and brutality that takes place in the sound studio is nerve-racking enough.

Gilderoy is a pretty gentle guy who has extensive experience working on cutesy nature films. He thinks he’s signing on to make a movie about horseback riding, so you can imagine how stressed out he gets when he is squirting hot water onto a skillet to make a sound for when the on-screen undead witch jams a red-hot poker up the vagina of one of her victims. He records women screaming and he massacres vegetables all day to create sounds for the movie’s apparently endless demand for gore-noise. He then must hunch over his console and devote hours to mixing the noises with 70’s sounding synths and pipe organ chords. Understandably, this erodes his sanity/happiness quite a bit. Sad Gilderoy.

Gilderoy’s mild-mannered gentility is a stark contrast to the demeanor of his co-workers’ who are all macho Italian dudes who have no problem putting in a ten hour day of chain-smoking, drinking, and sexually harassing the female voice talent. By degrees, he betrays his roots, dubbing sound for increasingly, wretchedly evil scenes that depart farther and farther from his placid nature movies.

The movie is a fascinating thriller but it abruptly unravels in a cluster-fuck swamp of surrealism of David Lynch proportions. I don’t want to give it away, but the last 20 minutes of the film are a multi-layered nightmare/metaphor and you should keep that in mind when trying to assign meaning to it.

Have you ever seen the last episode of Twin Peaks? Don’t ask me what the fuck happened there but compared to this movie, it makes perfect sense.

One obvious appeal of this movie is that it arouses in the viewer an appreciation for sound engineering and the creativity of behind-the-scenes production in film. It was really fun listening to the movie Gilderoy is working on and watching, not the undead witch cauterizing vaginas, but Gilderoy’s revulsion and distress. Ultimately it was a fun movie with an ending that had an sort of forced, awkward fit. Worth a watch.

 

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