Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Having enjoyed Peter Strickland’s ‘The Duke of Burgundy’ previously, I was keen to see this film. The added bonus was Toby Jones in the lead role. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a bad performance, and he was at his beautifully subtle, nuanced best here.
My only concern was that this is billed as a horror film, and I don’t like horror films. However, I need not have worried: all the horror in this film is auditory. It’s still pretty creepy, and well — horrifying — at times, but it isn’t anything close to a traditional horror film.
Jones plays a British sound engineer brought over to work on an Italian horror film in the ‘giallo’ style. We gradually learn that this is not his usual style of film at all (he has previously worked on the sound for pastoral documentaries (about Dorking! Yay!) and children’s films. He is disturbed by the film he is working on, though we, the viewer don’t get to see any of the film, on learn snippets of the plot and hear parts of the soundtrack. Gradually, the sound effects he is called upon to create start to affect his sanity.
The sound is everything in this film, and is incredibly effective in creating the oppressive, horrifying atmosphere. I really liked that way that Jones’ character listens to recordings from his mother’s house (the mantel clock ticking, the sound of the door bell) as a way of comforting himself and staving off homesickness.
The plot is convoluted, and my only quibble about this film is that it rather trails off at the end, rather than ending in a satisfying way. However, given the tone of the whole film, I didn’t find that too much of an issue. This is a Marmite film that you will either love or hate. If you like radio dramas, and Toby Jones, I suspect you’ll love it.