Berberian Sound Studio didn’t frighten me. It didn’t creep, weird, or freak me out either. I didn’t get any sort of shivers out of the experience nor did I get any heebies or jeebies.
If Peter Strickland’s film is anything, it’s mildly unsettling. It smartly pleads the case that our imaginations can provide strokes of detail if a film supplies the foundation for which our thoughts are built on. It’s absolutely true and some results in Berberian Sound Studio will make your stomach heave, but those moments are far and few between.
Berberian Sound Studio is a film made for people who love movies. Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a sound engineer asked to work on an Italian film’s post-production. Foley sound effects need to be recorded, ADR needs some shaping up, and Gilderoy is up for the task. That is, before he finds out what the movie is all about.
Gilderoy figures out that the movie he’s been asked to work on titled The Equestrian Vortex is a horror. Although, the film’s director begs to differ. He, along with the movie’s producer, pressure him to keep doing his job – even though Gilderoy is heavily disturbed with what he’s seeing on screen. The distress gets worse when he has to provide the sounds for the horrific acts being portrayed. But, he’s pushed forward and kept quiet. A studio sign that flashes the word “Silenzio” says it all.
Even though the scenes we don’t see are semi-graphically described, the foley sessions are still fascinating to watch. A silent pairing named Massimo and Massimo steal every scene they’re in as they represent different types of violence and torture with household items and foods.
However, whereas Gilderoy is pushed towards the grotesque nature, Strickland’s film moves at such a slow rate that it ends up pushing movie goers away. The film asks for too much patience as these imaginative scenes are essentially repeated, sucking any sort of interest out of these characters and this story.
The film is nice to look at. Strickland has done his period homework and assembled all sorts of vintage equipment. Also, Berberian Sound Studio never overplays its atmospheric moodiness – a huge plus.
But then, “it” really hits the fan. There’s no better way of describing the film’s nightmarish tendencies other than saying that reality soon blends into Gilderoy’s work and psyche. Strickland inserts lots of loopy surreal activity that would be considered a picnic to David Lynch. We’re constantly reminded of Lynch’s work during these more bewildering sequences.
As much as Strickland is trying to involve audiences with his hauntingly trippy movie by offering puzzles to the equation, he’s drove us away from the action for too long. It makes matters very difficult for movie goers to get back into the swing of a film that we’ve gradually grown disinterested in.
My carelessness was akin to being rudely awakened in the middle of the night. You snap awake and sort of realize what’s going on. While 20% of your mind and body is comprehending what happened, the other 80% would rather go back to bed.
But, hey, at least if you do doze off during Berberian Sound Studio, you can expect Massimo and Massimo to throw an eggplant at the ground to wake you up.