Hey everybody, Ethan here with the first of many written reviews on MoviePilot. I recently saw the film Berberian Sound Studio after going through a thread online about movies that actually deal with creating a film. There were many mentions of Argo, The Artist, Ed Wood, Singing in the Rain, Hugo, and Be Kind Rewind. But there was only one mention of BSS. I found it on Netflix and upon, reading the premise of the movie (An english sound mixer/technician is hired to create foley sound effects for an italian giallo film and slowly starts to lose his grip on reality) I was incredibly eager to watch it. I have always loved the themes of madness, losing touch with reality and just plain going bonkers. Which is exactly how I could describe the film. Bonkers, though a VERY subdued bonkers. So in spirit it all feels very Kubrick-esqe with its many hallways ,showing the inner workings of a larger machine and long shots.
So, to start off lets get into the basics of the film, directed by Peter Strickland, the film is drowning in 70's film aesthetics (film reels, projectors, multiple sound gauges and old recording equipment in general). This all transports us to Italy where a strange giallo (erotic thriller) film is being created by strange cast members in a strange sound studio. And it is here where we find most of the films events transpiring. Keeping the characters and in turn the audience, in the same location, will always get a sort of claustrophobic and feeling of being closed in, with nowhere to run. Our protagonist, Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is introduced to us as a very shy english man, who just wants his airplane flight receipts reimbursed and we see his transition into a disheveled man, who loses his grip on reality. So, Toby's performance is excellent and his character works super well in the film.
So, besides Toby's performance in the film, what else works? Well, the entire concept of sound in the film. Throughout the film, sound effects are being created for this horror movies, this ranges from ripping apart turnips to stimulate hair being snapped from a which's head to smashing watermelons for exploding heads. Now from a person who is interested in film and film making, this entire concept is enthralling and it is only more sickening when you have to sit and listen in horror as you hear "heads" exploding over and over and over again. On top of the many foley sound effects the movie employs to set a creepy atmosphere, as this is a horror movie, there should be screams. Now, there aren't any in the normal sense, but you see the actors performing their scream voice overs and it sort of desensitizes you to any horror that have to do with anything that has to do with horror off the screen.
Now, so far everything I have said about BSS has been positive. I would say I love the film, unfortunately I do have two problems with the film, the first being how down right strange (art house?) it can be. Some things, that are problems in the beginning are forgotten and never talked about again, even when the seem supernatural. In the middle of the film, after Gilderoy is being stalked by something, the film LITERALLY dissolves into a documentary about Box Hill, England. While, in retrospective, this could mean that the entire film was filmed over something (how meta) it takes away from the intensity of the scene. Another part is how some parts of the film seem to have history repeat itself, for this I have no explanation. Maybe, I would have understood the film better if I had not watched it at a time where I could have fallen asleep (I didn't) and had to find the summary of the film online. The strangeness of the film could have been explained better had the film been a tad bit longer, which is my second and last problem with the film. Clocking in at 93 minutes, I would have loved for the film to explain some of its eccentricities with 15 minutes more of film.
To conclude, Berberian Sound Studio is a movie for cinephiles. Anyone who loves movies and how to make them. With a relatively unknown cast aside from Toby Jones, they all give excellent performances. From the visceral audio of foley sound effects to the excellent cinematography by Nicholas D. Knowland. It is certainly a trip for the senses. As long as your willing to look up the plot on Wikipedia afterwords.
Berberian Sound Studio receives a 3.8 out of 5 stars.
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