Berberian Sound Studio (4 stars)

Berberian Sound Studio

Toby Jones as the seemingly meek British sound engineer

Striking and unsettling film from Peter Strickland set in a 1970s Italian horror sound studio

Films that address the artifice, fakery and manipulation inherent in their own medium obviously offer geeky thrills for knowing buffs, but they also draw out the intriguing emotional complexity of the filmmaker/viewer relationship: the fact that we willingly submit to being lied to, and accept a tissue of constructed effects as a cohesive object. It’s the uncanniness that David Lynch channels with his lipsynched pop songs, that Anthony Waller caught in Mute Witness and that Brian De Palma foregrounded in Blow Out.

This intriguing new film from Peter Strickland (British director of the impressive Katalin Varga) is set in an Italian sound facility that provides schlock effects for nasty giallo thrillers, and emphasises the strange power of pretence, as well as enjoyably reconstructing a particularly peculiar corner of European film history. Toby Jones embodies the viewer’s growing unease, as the unassuming, seemingly meek British sound engineer enlisted to work on a particularly nasty 1976 flick that ushers him gradually into the inexplicable.

Appropriately diligent sound design and a creepy score by Broadcast add to the unsettling atmosphere of a film that will confound those who like their horror straightforward, but compel more intellectually adventurous types - as well as sound buffs and fans of the bloody netherworlds of pulp horror. In just two films Strickland has established a striking, unusual voice; long may he continue to find opportunities to make this boundary-stretching, genre-fuddling work.

Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival Thur 28 Jun and Fri 29 Jun.

Official Trailer

Berberian Sound Studio

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Peter Strickland
  • Cast: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore Li Causi, Chiara D'Anna, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Eugenia Caruso, Susanna Cappellaro, Guido Adorni, Lara Parmiani, Jozef Cseres, Pál Tóth, Katalin Ladik, Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg
  • UK release: 31 August 2012

In the 1970s, a British sound technician (Toby Jones) is brought to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome horror film. His nightmarish task slowly takes over his psyche, driving him to confront his own past. Striking and unsettling, this is boundary-stretching, genre-fuddling work.

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