Posted by: ckckred | June 20, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio

Toby Jones stars in Peter Strickland's movie

Toby Jones stars in Peter Strickland’s movie

Berberian Sound Studio could be considered an exploration of Italian giallo or a surreal character study.  Whatever the case, I found Berberian Sound Studio an engrossing, if somewhat off-putting, movie.  I was engaged thoroughly in some scenes, a bit uninterested in others, but I recognized the genius behind director Peter Strickland’s work.

The film is about Gilderoy (Toby Jones), an English sound engineer who goes off to Italy to work on an Italian giallo entitled The Equestrian Vortex.  As he enters the Italian studio, he finds the workplace amiss.  The actors seem odd, the director eccentric, and his boss angry.  He regularly receives letters from his mother back in England, but cheerful news soon turns into gloom.  Gilderoy grows maddened by his profession and slowly his life turns around.

Berberian Sound Studio spends a majority of its 90-minute screen time on the process of making sound effects.  Bashing a watermelon sounds exactly like someone’s head being broken, pulling tomatoes of their stalk appears identical to tugging one’s hair, and jabbing watermelons with a knife swishes just like a real stabbing.  The process is fascinating to anyone interested in film and I especially enjoyed many of these sequences.

Strickland balances this side of the movie with the narrative.  Berberian Sound Studio enters the territory of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive for its art-imitating-life theme.  The trouble is Berberian Sound Studio doesn’t accomplish the perfection of Mulholland Drive and Strickland never fully graspes his subject matter the way Lynch can.  But despite its bumps, Berberian Sound Studio is intoxicating and it’s easy to find yourself lost in the movie.  Strickland fills his picture with symbolism and motifs and brings a powerful performance from Toby Jones.  Jones perfectly embodies Gilderoy; he portrays him as a nervous, shy wreck but never overplays the character.

While I never fully loved Berberian Sound Studio, I enjoyed and very much admired the movie.  Who knows, perhaps in about five to ten years time Strickland will become the next Lynch.

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Responses

  1. Nice review mate. I liked this but it’s final third completely threw me of course. It just seems to abandon all sense of narrative and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I’m sure that was the point, but it just went a little too weird for me.

    • Thanks! I didn’t mind the third act too much, but some parts I found a little slow. It’s not a perfect movie but an enjoyable one.

  2. Heard lots of things about it, but never felt compelled to watch it…since I’m not a fan of Mulholland Drive I will probably skip it.

    • Hmmm, if you’re not a fan of Mulholland Drive, you probably wouldn’t like this one. I found Berberian Sound Studio an interesting movie, even though I wouldn’t call it perfect.

  3. I am a big Toby Jones fan. A wonderful actor. I liked Mulholland Drive, too, so I bet I will find this interesting. Nice write up!

    • Thanks! It’s available as a rental on iTunes now. If you liked Mulholland Drive, I think you would enjoy this, though I wouldn’t consider it at the same rank.

  4. Yeah I think ‘admired it’ is a good way to describe it. I loved everything about it except for the story. It bored me a bit but the visuals and acting was ‘admirable.’ Nice review.

    • Thanks! Yeah, the visuals and acting are stunning, but I don’t think Strickland really handles the movie’s narrative very well, though I think it’s a good movie overall.

  5. I’ve heard a lot of interesting things about this film. I’m going to have to check it out. Good stuff buddy!

    • Thanks! It is a very interesting film, even though I didn’t fully love it. It’s available on iTunes as a rental and I recommend checking it out.

  6. Toby Jones was the best part about this one. It’s amazing that Strickland is still a rising director. He showed a lot of promise with this flick. I wanted to love it but it just didnt really do a lot for me. It was overall just kind of a mess. It was fun to listen to but as a movie just kind of boring. Great review.

    • Thanks! That’s a great way to describe the film and Jones was great in the movie, but ultimately it didn’t do much for me.

  7. Good review, man. We seem to agree on many things with this. I found it very well delivered but a bit too ambiguous. Lynch does it far better as he did with Mullholland Drive and Inland Empire.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I enjoyed the movie, but it pales in comparison to Lynch’s work. I’m don’t think Strickland exactly had a strong grasp on his material.

  8. Nice review of a really hard film to write a coherent review of.

  9. Haven’t seen it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Nice review.

    • Thanks! It’s available on iTunes right now. It’s a very interesting, if flawed, movie.

      • Yeah, I’ll have to do iTunes since Netflix doesn’t have the DVD for some reason.

  10. Another great write-up. I loved it, have a look at my thoughts if you get a sec http://threerowsback.com/2013/01/05/review-berberian-sound-studio/

    • Thanks! I’ll check it out right now.

      • Appreciate it! Hope you like it.


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