Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adrift in a Horror Movie Sound Booth, or Thoughts on Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

Written and Directed by Peter Strickland, Berberian Sound Studio (2012) is refreshingly creative and intellectual horror movie, featuring Toby Jones  as Gilderoy, a lonely British sound engineer working on a giallo movie at an Italian film studio who doesn't speak Italian.
The language barrier Gilderoy experiences only serves to reinforce his (and the viewer’s) sense of displacement and isolation.  A stylish and brilliant film where nothing is shown and everything is implied, except for the frankly fetishistic love of celluloid film, analog reel-to-reel tapes and soundboards.  As viewers we never see the movie they’re making, only Toby Jones’ confused reactions as he chops up watermelons for murder scenes and records blenders as chainsaw sound effects.  The scenes of torture and murder are never revealed and ultimately become irrelevant, as knives stabbing into cabbages become just as horrific.
We are witness to Gilderoy’s slow descent into a Kafka-esque madness, as the movie films actors as they produce the horrific screams and moan.   Isolated from the visual impact on they see on the screen, the sounds create a surreal, secondary terror as we in the audience struggle to imagine what they are actually viewing.
We watch Gilderoy as he watches the movie, an artist with sound, manipulating screams like colors until he begins to create the soundtrack of his own slow descent into madness.  It’s a quiet build-up to a surreal finish until he finally becomes fluent in Italian and a literal part of the movie, both starring in his own personal giallo film and transforming into one of the producers of it.

I’d say this is like Blow Out (1981) and Eraserhead (1977) by way of Dario Argento with a dash of Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), but none of you people have probably seen or remember Blow Out.  You might find the ending frustrating and non-linear but it’s important to remember that the filmmakers are creating a cinematic experience, rather than a straight-up story.  It stands alone in this modern world full of remakes and jump-cuts, and echoes back to the more experimental 70’s, when a filmmaker was willing to take chances to produce something bold and innovative.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.