Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
By: Ryan Morrissey-Smith on August 23, 2013 | Comments
Asylum | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Berberian Sound Studio DVD Art
Director: Peter Strickland
Starring: Toby Jones, Antonio Mancino, Guido Adorni, Susanna Cappellaro
Screenplay: Peter Strickland
Country: UK
External Links
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I never would have thought a movie about sound design could be so goddamn cool, yet Berberian Sound Studio manages this feat, and in the process puts together a well-made psychological horror film.

The story breakdown: Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a British sound engineer, travels to Italy to work on a Giallo film. As he gets deeper into the film, his isolation and the nature of the movie start to play tricks on his mind…

From the opening credits of the fictional film that Gilderoy is working on ("The Equestrian Vortex" - a great name for a film or band or your first born child) such a great atmosphere is created. Claustrophobic without overdoing it, Berberian Sound Studio paints Gilderoy as a fish out of water - he seems to be an awkward man regardless of his situation, but coupling that with being out of his comfort zone magnifies his awkwardness. Cajoled by the film's sleazy producer and even sleazier director, Gilderoy's mind slowly takes a detour down weirdo lane.

Writer and director Peter Strickland clearly loves Giallo films (and who doesn't?), and Berberian Sound Studio is an ode to these Italian shockers. The film is a slow burn but it's never boring, and somewhat fittingly for a film about sound design, the sound is itself a major character. All through the movie we see the methods employed by the effects people to enhance the various gory goings on in The Equestrian Vortex - such as the chopping and dropping of fruit to convey the sound of someone being stabbed - and sound also plays a major part as Gilderoy's brain goes off the rails.

The film within the film is never shown to the viewer, but we get a real idea of what is going on as we are talked through the scene while the sound effects are added. While we see the women in the film scream in the sound booth we never actually see the shocking acts of violence they are lending their screams to, and this device is great fun… or it at least starts out that way. Strickland plays his cards carefully, never fully, and despite dropping visual clues (rotting fruit and flashing red 'Silencio' signs) that may explain what is happening in the films crazy last 20 minutes it's left to the audience to decide just what is really going on.

Toby Jones excels as the awkward foreigner who is increasingly rattled by the movie he is working on. His performance is understated but perfectly played, and he really shines as his descent into madness begins, maintaining an unassuming manner whilst his facial expressions tell a different story. Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) is great as the producer who starts out very nice and little by little turns into a snarling arsehole determined to get the film finished regardless of anyone's objections or feelings. Antonio Macino is the film's director, Santini, who apart from looking like an Italian Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights is very rarely at the sound studio, and when he is he's changing topics and subjects like an ADHD kid who is off their meds.

Berberian Sound Studio is a very cool, very weird, and ultimately excellent movie that stays in your head for a while as you try to process what has just gone on. I can see this film becoming a cult classic, especially for Giallo fans. If you've never seen a Giallo, then this film may be a tad confusing, but for those more familiar with the genre this could be a great ending to a Fulci or Argento DVD night!
The Disc
Madman's 1.78:1 presentation is generally quite good. The image is a touch dull, however the softness appears to be an attempt to give the movie a vintage celluloid look. Not surprisingly, for a movie about sound the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is excellent, although it's a little restrained with its use of surround channels.

The disc includes Cast/Crew Interviews, B-Roll footage, and a reasonably lengthy Making Of, along with trailers for Berberian Sound Studio and other Asylum label movies. Unfortunately DVD buyers have been short changed in the extras department as the local Blu-ray also comes with an Audio commentary by director Peter Strickland, Interview with Peter Strickland, Deleted scenes, Production design gallery, Box Hill extended documentary, and Berberian Sound Studio original short film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Berberian Sound Studio will probably get lost in the wash of titles released this year, which is a shame because it is well made and has a smart, intelligent script, although it is just a little bit too weird to be more popular. For a film that isn't going to find a large audience Berberbian Sound Studio's disc has a good selection of extras, and while the DVD does omit a number of significant features found on Madman's Blu-ray release it is still worth your time and your money.
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