My fourth pick was Berberian Sound Studio aka #935 on the list. I had never seen or heard of this film before I picked it out of my bucket. I was cautious with this one and watched it in the morning, as it was classed as a Horror film and typical not a fan of scary films. I have a vivid imagiantion so overplay things in my head, and also get nightmares from horror films.
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
I had a funny type of annoying start with this film. On the lolly stick I wrote the film name down as Barbarian Sand Studio, so began to be worried when I could not find it anywhere. Eventually I discovered its real name, but not before I looked up Beverian Sand Studio multiple times.
(Not from film, Image credit: Mike/Flickr.com)
There will be SPOILERS AHEAD!
The trailer freaked me out quite a bit, and was the defining reason as to why I made sure to watch this film in the morning. The trailer also had the feel of A Clockwork Orange about it, which is a film I like, so it calmed my nerves a bit about watching it.
Facts Before Film
Director: Peter Strickland
Screenplay By: Peter Strickland
Production Company: Uk Film Council, Film 4, Warp X and ITV Yorkshire
Released By: Universal
Critics Say: (The Gurdian) “Seriously weird and seriously good”
“A key British filmaker of his generation”
Review By ‘C’
An English sound engineer, Gilderoy (Toby Jones) begins work at the Berberian Sound Studio in Italy. The film from the start lives up to its name and focuses on the smallest of sound, for example Gilderoy’s footsteps as he walks the corridor of the studio, and the sounds of a film reel, or buttons being pushed.
It is obvious that the film, at least the one they are making is a horror, by the horrific sound of a woman screaming (02:35), that Gilderoy hears shortly after arriving, but before he enters the sound studio.
The colour choices was also something that stood out to me, most of the colours throughout the film are dull or neutral, accept for the colour red. It is a colour theme that runs throughout the film, and as the film goes on its significance becomes more obvious.
The film also has an eerie vibe to it from start to finish, but it wasn’t want I assumed it would be when I knew it was a horror.
It was interesting to see how they made horror movies sounds, such as; watermelons being sliced to simulate stabbing (06:50), and seem almost like a behind the scenes look at how sound on movies was made in the 70’s.
Gilderoy makes a point to tell Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) about his receipts for his plane ticket but, as they are watching a scene from the horror film being made, he tells Gilderoy to wait until later. When he asks again later he gets brushed off, by Francesco and the Receptionist.
Gilderoy receives a letter from his Mum, usually in films when someone gets a letter there is either a voice over reading it, or a quick shot of the letter. But in this film the camera pans he entire letter slowly (14:00), so that we can read it all. Gilderoy is listening to music etc for the film, which plays in the background of the letter.
I did not like Francesco, he was passive aggressive and intimidating, and appeared to be mean or rude to those around him for no reason, then expected positive results.
More screaming occurs when Gilderoy begins in work, as the women who work on the film step into the sound booth to scream, the scream at points are almost ear piercing. I liked the concentration on noise here, not only in the screaming but also in the coughing after the screams. Which meant we could understand the strain the actress’s voice was under, to get the right scream.
This film would work well as a radio play, but the director also took advantage of his cinematic abilities by making it a film, and a someone who studied scriptwriting and film as part of my degree, I can’t watch a film without questioning why things are done, the colour red was one of them. One way it payed of was through a close-up of the inside of the screamers mouth which is of course, red. This led to a scene of Gilderoy putting tomato soup in a blender which then gets splattered all over him.
All this time we are led to believe Gilderoy is working on a horror film, and can see that he is distressed and uncomfortable with the film. But when he finally gets the chance to meet the director he is told “This is not a horror film, this is a Santini film” (25:30), and leads Gilderoy to become even more confused about what he is doing in this Italian sound studio.
I also started to wonder at this point, does every scene have red in it? Let me know if you noticed this in the comments below. ‘SILENCO’ flashes up a few times during the film when they are recording (22:30/30:30/43:12/47:50/1hr01/1hr08)
30 MINUTE TIME CHECK: I think this is a good film for someone who is interested in film, specifically screenwriting or film making. But I didn’t see it as something that would bring in big audiences to the cinema. I also was sort of confused at this point, and wasn’t sure want the point of this film was, but maybe that’s what the director was going for.
The Italian men in this film seem really mean, and I found it kind of uncomfortable to watch their arrogance and bullying ways. It made me have sympathy for Gilderoy and the women in the film.
The issue of reimbursement comes up again (36:20), and the lack of trust and suspicion in the film starts to build up. Whenever Gilderoy is at the reception there is always a bird like or squeaking sound that faintly plays over the action.
Another repetitive theme of the film is fruit. In one of the first scenes we see in the sound studio, Massimo and Massimo are cutting a watermelon. A large vat of rotting fruit and veg (39:00) is also shown every so often, usually just quickly, and it made me feel queasy and I thought that was the most disturbing part of the film.
Throughout the film it’s obvious that Gilderoy is not like the Italian men, and that he’s a softer more vulnerable person, “I can’t do this stuff” (43:30) becomes more and more dishevelled as the film goes on, and the horror of the film they are making seems to be growing worse.
Gilderoy receives another letter from his Mum (40:40) and again we are able to read the whole letter ourselves. I sort of wished at this point that he would just leave and go home, where the world seemed safer for him.
Santini is back at the studio and just a creepy as ever, feeding Gilderoy some sort of seed (again I’m not sure) and makes his swallow it so as not to be rude (54:00).
Echoy music covers the transitions, and most of the moves too new scenes are just fades to black, as opposed to a more common or traditional scene tradition. However, this film is set in the 1970’s so I wondered if that had something to do with this cinematic choice.
Gilderoy then hears noises and leaves his house, where he meets the screaming woman from the film in the woods. She tells him to be more forceful and confident, and that he needs to do more to get his reimbursement.
So of course, the next days he does, heading back to reception and getting on the phone to the accounts department himself. They tell Gilderoy that they looked up his flight (58:50) but there was no record of it, therefore he would not be getting his reimbursement. He looks just as confused and annoyed as I felt watching, both of us thinking ‘What the fuck?’.
1 hour in and Gilderoy is completely dishevelled, no longer nicely dressed in a tank top, shirt and tie, but now instead he wanders around with top buttons undone and a cardigan. At this point I was still waiting/hoping for some sort of pay off in the film, I wasn’t really sure of the purpose. My opinion at this point hadn’t changed much from how I felt 30 minutes in.
The screaming woman (I never really learnt her name, but I know she plays Teresa at one point…I think) and Gilderoy are alone in the sound studio, and she wants to step into the sound booth so that she can just scream “…Just a whore to them” (1hr02). When she’s in there screaming the camera pans out further and further, until the sound booth is surrounded by black, and she gets smaller and smaller on the screen. I thought this looked good cinematically, and I liked how is expressed her feelings at this point in the movie, and probably Gilderoy’s as well.
She the quits the film, but not before she destroys everything (1hr03) and Gilderoy and the Italian men all walk into the studio to find all the sound reels spread out across the floor and the reels pulled out (unwound). The immediately start auditioning new women, and care more about their looks then their talent. She leaves a note to let the Italian men that she did it.
The only time I felt the actual film came close to a horror was when Gilderoy was woken up by his doorbell ringing, after shouting “Who is it?” the person outside then tries get in the house, banging on the door and turning the doorknob. (1hr09). Gilderoy at this point gets scare and tries to find a weapon or something to protect himself.
He finally opens the door but nobody is there but he walk out into the sound studio. Before in the film when he walked out of his door he walked to the outside, so I was confused. I didn’t know if where he was living was connected to the outside and the studio, or if this was done as part of what is to follow, anyone have an opinion or clarification?
On the projector screen the scenes we just witnessed plays, accept now Gilderoy speaks Italian, and all the scenes we have just seen begin to splice together on the screen.
Then a documentary about a place called ‘Box Hill’ in the English countryside begins to play (1hr12) it’s almost as if the film has been recorded over by a documentary (if that makes sense?).
We then hop back to Gilderoy’s first meeting with Francesco where they both speak in out of sync Italian. A throwback to other parts of the film where scenes have had to be repeated, on the film they are making to make sure all the screams and vegetable sounds sync correctly.
His Mother’s letter come into play again, as the new woman hired to be the lead in the film asks to practice her lines which are actually what was written in his Mothers letters. Slightly spooky I thought. Is the film about him? What is real and what is not?
At this point the film is slightly disorientating, after all the sounds were destroyed everything had to be re done, so all the films for us and them are being repeated over again, and it was almost like watching a short version of the film.
The original screaming lady always struggled to get the scream right but had no consequences. Now the new woman is having the same struggle, but they have a punishment for he this time. They play a high-pitched sound through her headphones, that’s gets more high pitched. Even as I watched it I almost couldn’t think through the noise.
Gilderoy is also back to dressing well, and appears to be more confident, standing up for himself. When the new woman quits after her mistreatment, Gilderoy seems upset but cold and unfeeling all at the same time. He just stares through the screen for a while.
The films ending scene (1hr) is Gilderoy standing back in front of the projector screen. It gets really white, and as it grows brighter he becomes a white silhouette before the films ends and it all fades to black.
I was left feeling confused and sort of vulnerable, but maybe that was the point.
This film to me focused a lot on sound, and from the conversations there were, there wasn’t really a particular quote that stood out to me.
Comment below if you have a quote that you’d put in this section.
I guess the significant scene would be when Gilderoy steps out of his house and he is in the studio, it was a this point that the whole film changed for me and it was no longer just a simple straight forward film, like I seen it as before now.
I’d give this film a 4/10, what do the rest of you think?
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The last film was: #708 Reservoir Dogs
The next film will be: #823 Mulholland Drive