Berberian Sound Studio DVD Review
Written by Simon Bland
DVD released by Artificial Eye
Written and directed by Peter Strickland
2012, Region 2 (PAL), 92 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 31st December 2012
Toby Jones as Gilderoy
Tonia Sotiropoulou as Elena
Susana Cappellaro as Veronica
Cosimo Fusco as Francesco
Antonio Mancino as Santini
Lara Parmiani as Chiara
Berberian Sound Studio is not really a horror movie. Its director Peter Strickland makes that pretty clear on one of the DVD's lengthy interview extras. And yet it’s so swamped in horror ideology, themes and, most importantly here, sounds that it’s hard to see it as anything but. Following his Hungarian revenge picture Katalin Varga, Strickland takes us back to the 70s, delving into the psychological trauma inflicted upon a little British soundman by the relentlessly dark nature of one of horror’s most iconic genres, Giallo.
Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a mild-mannered mummy’s boy from Dorking and expert foley artist. Renowned for his work on British wildlife films, he’s hired by Italian filmmaker Santini to dub his new movie The Equestrian Vortex. Thinking he’ll be working on a nice film about a horse he accepts the job offer and leaves his beloved English home for Santini’s Italian sound studio. However he soon discovers he’s made a big mistake. Instead of creating artificial sounds for frolicking animals, he’s faced with cobbling together the right noise for hacked bodies, splintered bones and, most gruesome of all, a hot poker being inserted into a nun’s vagina during a witch trial. Shocked? You should really Google ‘Giallo’.
The violent nature of Gilderoy’s new role soon starts to invade his mind, a situation that’s made worse by his permanently cold co-workers. The mundane task of claiming back travel expensed quickly escalates from a funny-awkward request, to a trembling demand resembling some sort of bad joke. As he splats vegetables and squirts water into sizzling pans the boundaries between reality and fiction begin to blur, leaving behind a David Lynch-ian mental prison from which there’s seemingly no escape.
As you might imagine, Berberian is chock full of nods to Argento, Fulci and Bava and plenty of winks to the stylised sound work of Ennio Morricone. Strickland never introduces us to the real on screen terror, instead he only lets us glimpse the horrors through Gilderoy’s glassy eyes. Distracted by jaw-dropping visuals, he starts missing sound cues, much to the annoyance of his director. It’s almost as if by refusing to provide a sound he’ll save Santini’s doomed damsel. But Strickland soon dashes that hope, reminding us of Gilderoy’s futility by shattering his idyllic Blighty home and casting it further out of reach.
Strickland’s use of diagetic sound is inspiring. Almost every unsettling noise can be pinned to an actual visible cause and despite Berberian’s dark premise it can be quite funny at times. Us horror fans tend to forget that the squelching sound of a smashed skull is often the result of a squash being mindlessly whacked with a hammer. However, any humour is quickly overshadowed by Gilderoy’s spiraling predicament and as this overwhelming experience starts to absorb him, you’re reminded of the raw power of Giallo and the effect it must have had on unsuspecting audiences. You’ll never listen to a movie in the same way again.
Video and Audio:
Video is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 audio
- Audio commentary by & interview with the director
- Making of
- Deleted scenes with director's commentary
- Production design gallery
- ‘Box Hill’ extended documentary
- ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ original short film
- Theatrical trailer
There's loads on offer here. An audio commentary with director Peter Strickland as well as a 'Making of' and additional director chat. There's a selection of deleted scenes with Strickland commentary, a 'Box Hill' extended documentary, the original short film on which Berberian Sound Studio was based and also a theatrical trailer. The interviews can be a bit snooze-inducing though!