movie film review | chris tookey

Berberian Sound Studio

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  Berberian Sound Studio Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
7.50 /10
Toby Jones , Cosimo Fusco, Eugenia Caruso
Full Cast >

Directed by: Peter Strickland
Written by: Peter Strickland

Released: 2011
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK
Colour: C
Length: 92

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A certain kind of film buff will adore Berberian Sound Studio, a paranoid thriller set in the 1970s. It shows a timid sound engineer from Dorking (Toby Jones, pictured) becoming first desensitised and then corrupted by the experience of dubbing an Italian horror flick.

He also becomes more and more angrily aware that no one’s ever going to shell out the expenses he’s owed. Someone will have to pay!

Those in the know will chuckle over references to sensationalist pieces of the era, made by directors such as Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci.

All we see of The Equestrian Vortex, the film under production, are its red and black opening titles, hinting at grisly horrors to come. British writer-director Peter Strickland (who previously made the award-winning Katalin Varga) teases us by never showing the movie. We experience its horrors – nuns assaulted, witches tortured, “a dangerously aroused goblin” - purely by witnessing the voice-over cast and sound effects specialists manufacturing its amazingly repulsive soundtrack.

This is entertaining up to a point, but the reasons for our anti-hero’s derangement are largely unexplored – the notion that his repressions would crumble during the course of one job seems weirdly far-fetched - and the plot becomes anti-climactic and hard to understand in the final reel.

This cheaply-made film had the potential to cross over to a mass audience, but it lacks the inclination to make that leap, and settles instead for being a small-scale art-house picture too slow and uneventful to reach beyond a tiny minority.

Some are hailing Berberian Sound Studio as a masterpiece. I’d say it’s a missed opportunity. If the second half had been as inventive as the first, this might have been a classic – and a big hit. As it stands, it’s the kind of film that attracts rave reviews and all too promptly vanishes.

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