EIFF 2012: Berberian Sound Studio
Posted on Thursday June 28, 2012, 00:36 by Stephen Carty in Under The Radar
One of the most curious prospects screened at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, Berberian Sound Studio follows a British sound designer (played by perennially brilliant character actor Toby Jones) who creates movie sound effects. Part creepy meta horror, part mind-bending thriller, part Italian filmmaking satire, it’s a consistently unsettling and progressively baffling experience, one that will no doubt leave even the sharper audience members scratching their heads.
Jones plays mild-mannered technician Gilderoy, who arrives at a ragged sound studio in Italy to work on a movie that involves a few gruesome scenes. Melons, cabbages and all manner of garden produce are abused in order to create the stabbing, squelching or snapping noises required, and initially it’s just fascinating to see how the actual process works, while tech nerds will likely enjoy all the whirring film reels and behind-the-scenes stuff. But while Berberian Sound Studio deconstructs the horror genre (to some extent) by showing you where many of the skin-crawling sound effects come from, what’s impressive is how it still manages to make you feel uneasy with an escalating sense of dread and foreboding.
Still unsure of what to expect? Well, let’s just say that if you were to drop Dario Argento’s cult oeuvre in a filmic blender with Roman Polanski’s flair for paranoia along with David Lynch’s surreal sensibilities, this would be the result. Nightmarish, atmospheric and – as you might expect – boasting superb sound design, the influence of the latter is especially felt during the final stages, as the movie takes a Lynchian detour and goes off the rails into some truly unchartered territory. Up until then, it’s worth noting that Berberian Sound Studio had been relatively engrossing (in an abstract fashion), but the climactic portion is likely going to require a few viewings before everything fits into place.
Already, it’s difficult to imagine much commercial success, but you can easily predict this becoming a cult arthouse favourite of sorts. The second picture from filmmaker Peter Strickland (after his 2009 debut Katalin Varga), there’s a confidence here which marks him out as someone to watch, while Toby Jones offers another strong and impressively nuanced performance in the lead, acting entire scenes with just his eyes and the odd facial expression. Masterful.