Review: Berberian Sound Studio


Berberian sound studio

Peter Strickland’s art-horror melon mash up is a curious movie indeed.

So curious in fact that it’s difficult to describe or conclude anything from an artistically sumptuous piece of work that struggles to ultimately deliver on its patient progression.

Part audio horror, part eulogy to Italian horror classics, Toby Jones’ very English sound engineer Gilderoy travels to Italy to work on a movie titled The Equestrian Vortex. He thinks he’s working with horses.

What Gilderoy’s work really entails on this project is the provision of all manner of horrific audio to unseen brutally on the studio screen.

And in Strickland’s tribute to the art of noise, it’s the non-visual slapping and splatting of melons and other fruit varieties that disturbs the most when the on screen goes unseen.

Sound is the clear sensual trip here, and when coupled with panning shots across Gilderoy’s descriptive sound flow charts, the never to be revealed visual seems all the more disturbing.

But in all this delicate art-house musing, the randomness of events and patient persistence, there’s a feeling of chaos and disorientation as Strickland’s attack on the senses confuses and detracts from clearly concluding what is going on as Jones patient man descends into apparent mental decline when slowly affected by the repetition of misogynistic events on screen within the claustrophobic bullying surroundings of the studio.

The cultural clashes of restrained Britishness versus Italian flamboyance add further to Gilderoy’s frustrations of entrapment.

As he loses his grasp on reality and fiction so does Director Strickland in a finale that is confusing and ill-fitting with the focused build seen throughout. It feels inconclusive and not as assured as all that has come before; perhaps purposefully, but in a film that needs to deliver for audience investment in going with Strickland’s vision, set out on his very own terms, such ambiguity frustrates.

Less critically, it may well be an end that pays greater audience respect than as what first appears given its vagueness as a reflection of the deteriorating mind or perhaps something else far more sinister.

As a sensual experience, Berberian Sound Studio is very special indeed – brilliantly artistic, but it’s also a perplexing and ambitious stretch too far for the senses.

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10 responses to “Review: Berberian Sound Studio

  1. That is very bizarre man. I just finished my review of, literally minutes before you posted. I actually reading over it when you my email alert went. I checked and this is the post I see. Spooky!

    Anyway, great review man. We pretty agree on everything here. It was brilliantly put together but ultimately never went anywhere. I gave it 3.5. I’ll post tomorrow as I like to leave a little gap in-between posts when I’m falling behind on writing.

    • Spooky indeed because Terry Malloy posted yesterday too! It’s all connected.
      3.5 is 7 so yeh I agree that’s fair, and most I have read with issues had the same things. Thanks man!
      on a side note, do you feel we may have missed something with this film? (part of me still wants to like it)

      • I thought I may have missed something but it ended rather abruptly. Maybe that’s why? It was good but I don’t think it was as deep as it thought it was. It wasn’t bad though, just not as good as some critics claimed it to be. David Lynch has done much better.

  2. Spot on mate. I was enjoying it up until the final third and it just went all crazy, a little too crazy. I read a theory that the whole thing was about Gilderoy having killed his mother and it’s him going mad and everything that happens is in his head. Intriguing theory!

    • Intriguing theory, I didnt quite get that but I did think it wasn’t all real, there’s a passage towards the end that takes him from his lodgings straight into the studio when before it seems he is staying elsewhere, so the studio is in his head but would have to revisit (if I can be bothered) to get the mother bit. I have a weird feeling though that once understood, even though I didn’t get it this time it will become a much better movie. Thanks dude.

      • I think the mother bit was to do with the letters. And the bullying treatment of all the women in the film is his view of women. And then something about the director being an abusive father or something. It is a far fetched theory though and shows just how far people are going to try and make some sense of the bonkers story!
        I feel like I need to watch it again to understand it a bit more but I’m not sure I want to just yet.

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