Berberian Sound Studio

It was a tweet from Mark Kermode that prompted me to check out this film. Perhaps I had my hopes raised too much. Toby Young stars in this horror drama from writer/director Peter Strickland about an English sound operator who gets a big break at an Italian Sound studio making sound FX for a film. He soon realises the film is of a very gruesome nature, more than your average horror film. As he undertakes sessions of smashing watermelons to immitate crushed body parts and spraying water into a hot frying pan to immitate a red hot poker stabbed into a vagina, he becomes somewhat peturbed by the nature of his job. And it is this nature plus relentless workload, pressure, isolation and an angry boss that slowly sends him over the edge. We share in his delusions and hallucinations heavily through the medium of sound.
The use of sound, whilst imaginative, does tend to grind after a while and a lack of dynamic does nothing to enhance what is effectively a very dull storyline. There are some interesting cinematique moments including some imaginative montages using actual celluloid film as a theme. But then there are less imaginative montages including constant images of the list of sound effects and a flashing red “Silencio” sign which are great the first 4 times but gets boring after a while. There were parts of this film where I was ready to close my eyes and snooze.
Toby Jones plays the lead, Gilderoy, who has two sets of emotions – either nervous and apologetic or pathetically angry, nervous and apologetic. A good horror film must have something at stake (literally if it’s Dracula) However, if our protagonist is hard work, too bland, wet and drab, then after a while we tend not to care what happens to them. At the very worst, it makes for an amusing come-uppance. Whilst it was a good performance, I didn’t really make any connection with Jones’ character.
George Lucas says that sound is 50% of a film. In this case, it’s about 75% mainly due to lack of storyline and that is too much, even if the film is about sound FX!

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Posted in 2012, Halloween | Leave a comment

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