Saturday, December 14, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio (IFC DVD) - The Madness You Hear Through Your Eyes

First tackling the Berberian Sound Studio came easily. I knew nothing of the plot save that the "film-ees" wanted me to see it. That it had to do with scoring a strange horrific film and that it starred Toby Jones didn't hurt. Jones' work seems indicative of Hammer films of old. He's a talented fellow who is either lovable or disturbing, but regardless I care. So I watched it and I was moderately stunned. What a strange little picture filled with disorienting audio and visuals matched with a feeling of oppression and angst that made me feel uncomfortable. While I ended up enjoying the movie, I don't know that it's an experience that I feel like I'd like repeated often no matter how captivating. I can assure you that it's a ride worth taking once, and if upon your first viewing you enjoy the picture or feel anything, you'll probably need a second viewing to patch together the disoriented rabble of a brain your left to collect. So IFC picked up a damn fine movie. A unique picture that isn't exactly a movie of horror, but of madness.

Synopsis from IFC:

Mild-mannered sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones, The Hunger Games, The Girl, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) arrives in Rome to work on the soundtrack to a film called The Equestrian Vortex, a tale of witchcraft and murder set inside an all-girl riding academy. Before long he becomes entranced by the film's mysteriously terrifying allure, and the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur. Now Gilderoy's own mind has become the battleground between his horrifying delusions and his desperate grasp on the real world. 


With the newly released DVD edition of this unsettling picture you get some helpful extras. Commentary with Writer/Director Peter Strickland who is pretty new at the director game, but has managed to leave a big mark already. There's a behind the scenes featurette, Box Hill Documentary, some deleted, extended and alternate scenes as well as a photo gallery, trailer... basically a fairly loaded disc. That may be more than you're willing to explore. It's as much an audio fuck as it is a visual pork. Strickland gets you by attacking you with strange cuts and sounds and repetition. 

So after you indulge the film a second viewing you'll get a better grasp of when sound engineer Gilderoy looses it, but equally you'll become more sympathetic to the challenges he faces. My dreams (delusions or fantasies at best) of becoming a sound engineer on a horror production were shattered by watching BSS. This is the kind of meticulous that can only be supported by the most controlling of minds. When that mind is put to the test, offered critique or demand or direction, well... there's the kind of psychotic break we might expect from a Norman Bates. We can chock up Jones' performance to something in the Perkins school without rewinding the tape.

I'm going to strongly recommend this picture to film students or people in the industry even though I myself am not in the industry. Equally fans of psychological thrillers of Hitchcock or De Palma will feel right at home. Perhaps even David Lynch fans. Strickland creates madness. Jones is the madness. This movie will make you feel batty.

You can pick up Berberian Sound Studio now (and I keep slipping and calling it Berberian Sound System so don't feel bad if you do the same).

-Doc Terror


  1. Why no blu ray? The region 2 masters of cinema version offers blu ray. IFC needs to realize that this is the standard for viewing experience.

  2. hi, i am big fan of Berberian Sound Studio, Great stuff :)