FANTASTIC FEST: Film disturbs with haunting audio effects


Gilderoy works in a sound studio with disturbing techniques.

Life & Arts Editor

Peter Strickland’s “Berberian Sound Studio” is slow and disturbing, similar to the deterioration of the main character’s mental health.

When Gilderoy, played by Toby Jones, travels to Italy to work on the sound effects of a horrifying and violent film, his timid demeanor turns dark as the brutal elements of the film start to seep into his subconscious.

“I didn’t know I’d be working on this type of movie,” Jones said.

“Berberian Sound Studio” is a beautiful and shadowy film full of plump, juicy produce used as sound props. Until the produce begins to rot and Gilderoy begins to confuse reality with film.

The British film is slow-moving but intense. It does not follow the conventional rules of suspenseful films. Instead of shocking plot twists and murders in every scene, “Berberian Sound Studio” is moved along by the gradual progression of the witch movie and the protagonist’s psychological descent.

The viewer is just as confused and out of the loop as Gilderoy. When he learns something new about the titular sound studio, so does the audience. This is not a flaw, however. It is intentional and adds to the surreal atmosphere of the entire experience.

The audience experiences the witch film through the sound effects, including blood-curdling screams, watermelons being chopped, water sizzling on a hot stove emphasizes the effect of sound on a film or in everyday life.

Jones, who provided the voice for Dobby in the Harry Potter films, is terrific as the fragile Brit who has a mental breakdown coming the second he steps off the plane in Italy. He plays the shy little brother role, the character who is always pushed aside and cannot get a word in edgewise, spot-on. He truly makes the viewer sympathize with his situation, and by the end, the audience can thoroughly relate to his mental state.

Many critics may consider “Berberian Sound Studio” a tease and argue that nothing really happens. This may be true. The viewers are waiting for a dramatic twist and they may be disappointed. But the filmmakers never promised a shock factor. If viewers are disappointed, it is because their own expectations of the film were not realized. Try to forget your expectations and experience the film as it is: no promises and no parameters.

If you are a fan of suspenseful and dark films and can appreciate the slow pace of a European movie, then you will enjoy the mind-bender that is “Berberian Sound Studio.”