‘Berberian Sound Studio’ is a feast for the ears and eyes
Starting this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the film that caused quite the stir at the formal TIFF 2012 festival, Berberian Sound Studio. The film features the always dependable and engaging Toby Jones as the proverbial fish out of water, his character traveling from his home in Surrey England to work in the Italian film business during the heyday of the Italian ‘Giallo ‘ film. The film is an exercise in style, atmosphere and tone and delightfully hearkens back to the Italian thrillers it bases itself in the midst of.
Berberian Sound Studio
Starring: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore Li Causi, Chiara D’Anna, Tonia Sotiropoulou
Written and Directed by Peter Strickland
Summoned to an Italian studio to record the audio effects for a bloody horror opus, meek British sound engineer Gilderoy (Jones) quickly finds his genteel disposition clashing with that of his alternately boisterous, genial and hostile Italian hosts. As Gilderoy becomes unhealthily submerged in his work, the simulated aural violence (snapping celery stalks standing in for cracking bones, pulverized watermelons for squishing craniums) starts to take on a cruel edge. As tension in the claustrophobic studio mounts, it becomes clear that the film is corrupting Gilderoy’s fragile psyche.
Watching Toby Jones work truly is a marvelous thing. His masterful performance anchors this ambitious effort and manages to keep the audience engaged and allow the story to unravel and enrapture the audience in its spell. All the actors here are very good, form the long suffering actress forced to scream continually in post-production recordings, the insulting and put upon producer who continually drives down Gilderoy to keep him from asking when he will get reimbursed for his flight and the womanizing director and his rambunctious dog. The world the film exists in feels real and palpable, a time machine back to the seventies when film was processed on actual stock and foley/sound effects was done on reel to reel tape recorders when not in a studio setting. Sound and film seem to carry more of a essence and life than some of the all-digital productions today when it was something you could physically run through your fingers.
The foley/sound effect work done in Berberian is utterly brilliant. The film is a love letter to those talented men behind the scenes and the work they do, and the work put into Berberian whether it is on screen happening for the film within the film or part of the actual film we are watching, it is a wondrous experience. The way that sound is used and experienced in Berberian Sound Studio is rarely shown on film these days and it’s a welcome return.
The film is not without its flaws, the relationship between Gilderoy and one of the stars of the film is not fleshed out nearly as much as the audience would like and the womanizing director and conniving producer characters are never raised above broad stereotypes, yet these issues do not disturb the film enough to pull viewers away. Berberian is one of those special experiences that only comes around sporadically at best. Berberian Sound Studio is a definite recommend.
Till Next Time
Movie Junkie TO
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