Berberian Sound Studio (2013)
Critic Consensus: Its reach may exceed its grasp, but with Berberian Sound Studio, director Peter Strickland assembles a suitably twisted, creepy tribute to the Italian Giallo horror movies of the '70s that benefits from a strong central performance by Toby Jones.
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Critic Reviews for Berberian Sound Studio
While it's a loving homage to movies like Dario Argento's Suspiria and is crafted with tons of style, it leaves out one key ingredient: being even remotely scary.
Radishes, cabbages and melons meet horrific ends in Berberian Sound Studio, a down-the-earhole psychodrama where what you hear is more terrifying than what you see.
Writer/director Peter Strickland intriguingly weaves into the story a movie-within-a-movie that we barely see, but we hear.
A sometimes interesting, sometimes head-scratching movie that pays homage to the old ways of the sound mixing world and to the "giallo" genre of horror that was prominent in Italy during the 1970s.
[It] not only exploits one of cinema's most important modes, it also attempts something more difficult: turning a genre movie into a work of art.
Audience Reviews for Berberian Sound Studio
An imaginative and expertly edited psychological thriller/meta exercise that dissolves the barrier between reality and fiction through a fantastic sound design, beautiful scene transitions and a smart cinematography that nicely references the style of the Italian giallos of the '70s.
Total waste of one and a half hours. Made no sense whatsoever.
I don't mind weird or something that doesn't quite add up until the end, but when it's both those things and still doesn't have an explanation of some type, I get a bit annoyed!
This second feature from director Peter Strickland (following "Katalin Varga" in 2009) is certainly an interesting bag of mixed opinions. Some have claimed it to be a five star experience, while others simply didn't get it. I suppose it depends a lot on your approach beforehand but there's no mistaking that it's one of those film's where your left to make up your own mind.
An experienced British sound-engineer is hired to work on a low-budget Italian horror movie called "Equestrian Vortex". Throughout his work, he struggles with the language-barrier and constant exposure to horror movie images and finds himself drawn into a vortex all his own, as he begins to lose his grasp on reality.
The thing that strikes you most from this film when it opens is it's good sense of atmosphere. It possess an almost strange sepia tint, as if the proceedings have been desaturated. There's a permeating feeling dread and unease that courses through it as time, itself, seems to stroll by. Strickland is certainly in no rush to tell his story and he also abandons any conventional method in doing so; a good chunk of the dialogue is in Italian and there's a deliberate omission of subtitles. This may put some people off but it serves to create an understanding and affiliation with the loneliness and isolation of the protagonist, Gilderoy (played brilliantly by Toby Jones). Although deliberate, and an interesting method, I also found it somewhat frustrating. What's also very interesting is that the story takes shape in the sound that's provided for film's rather than the images. How many times have you ever seen a horror movie that relies solely on audio rather than visual? Cabbages are stabbed and plunged into water to provide the perfect accompanying sound of someone being stabbed or drowned. It's an interesting insight and the suggestion of horror is actually captured very well using this approach. When we do, eventually, see the images that have been getting dubbed, it throws the film into a completely new surrealistic direction that shares similarities with the mind-bending talents of David Lynch and his art imitating life theme of "Inland Empire" or "Mulholland Drive". Of course, thats where the similarity ends as Strickland doesn't have the ability to construct his story with any real meaning in the way that Lynch excels at. I'm no stranger to surreal cinema, in fact I love it but this leaned a little too far to self-indulgence for me.
Anyone familiar with the 'Giallo' horrors of Italian cinema during the 60's and 70's will, no doubt, take a lot more from this film than I did. That being said, there's no denying it's grasp on atmosphere and it's impressive ability to build tension. However, as our protagonist becomes increasingly withdrawn and descends in madness, we descend into obscurity without any real satisfying conclusion. For me, the film just ended. I was aware of it's nature and prepared for any subtext or symbolism that it might throw my way, but in the end, it didn't quite come together. I was hoping for a more satisfying conclusion.
It's certainly not to everyone's tastes. For some, it will bore; for others, it will confuse. However, if your open minded enough, it will draw you in. Basically, it's an art-house horror that can either be seen as pretentious clap trap or an astute homage. I find myself somewhere in between.
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