Directed by Peter Strickland and released in it’s home country of the UK in 2012.
Berberian Sound Studio is a film about a British man who is hired by an Italian company to produce the full sound mix and effects for their latest Giallo offering, The Equestrian Vortex – a film he thinks is about horses. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that the film is a horror movie – full on goreified. He also doesn’t realize the eccentricity of just about everyone involved in the project. The life he’s living begins to interfere with the film he’s helping create the sound for and in true Lynchian fashion the two blur so much it’s hard to distinguish between the two.
The film is influenced by the Giallo films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento; the ’70s and ’80s works of David Cronenberg; the entire filmography of David Lynch; and a Czechoslovakian expressionist film from the ’60s entitled The Cremator, which director Peter Strickland has openly admitted to being influenced by. The influence of the Czech film is so clear that most of the editing and transitions are lifted straight from this film – even the main characters share strikingly similar appearances and moralistic values. As much as Strickland takes from these wonderful pieces of art he gives just as much back and it’s an undeniably rewarding process as usually with a horror film they don’t give back they just take.
As the films reality blurs with the films fiction, it becomes increasingly hard to tell which is which and despite the fact that there is an incredibly abrupt change in the narrative it is still pretty clear what is going on. The film is spearheaded by an exquisite performance by Toby Jones who does so little but still manages to carry the entire film on his back. Cosimo Fusco gives an awesome performance as the mean-spirited producer Francesco, the main antagonist of the film; Antonio Mancino appears as the famed director of the film within the film and shines very well. Tonia Sotiropoulou is also worth noting as she gives a completely emotionless performance as the secretary of the Berberian Sound Studio who doesn’t even know what she’s supposed to be doing.
While the performances are obviously spectacular, it’s really the direction and the sound that are the main attractions here. The film is about analogue but is filmed on digital and somehow it manages to stay true to all the ethics of the ’60s and ’70s horror films of the day and brings it to the screen some fifty years later still with such an elegance and trueness to the original genre it’s so dearly influenced by. The cinematography is also a revelation – the camera moves so gracefully and lingers on to the most pointless of things but that is a clear influence by the Giallo and the Lynch films. I’m a big Lynch fan so I loved seeing these little nods.
This is one of the best horror films in recent years and when I saw it in the cinema I had no choice but to go back the next night and see it again. It left me in such a trance state that it wasn’t my choice to go and see it again but my brain was telling me I had to. Just an absolutely fantastic film that is so ambiguous that you really have to listen to the film aswell as just looking at it – something most films these days don’t even require.