Berberian Sound Studio

500 Days Of Film Reviews Berberian Sound Studio And Finds A Creepy Audible Horror

Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is a sound engineer who has been hired to work on an Italian film called The Equestrian Vortex. 

Having worked on natural history films in the past, creating sound effects and mixing audio, he thinks this next job will belong to the same genre. 

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Horrified by the disturbing film that he is, in fact, working on (no horses here), Gilderoy feels increasingly isolated, homesick and anxious as his world slips into nightmare.

Is It Any Good?

Having read the synopsis of Berberian Sound Studio, I couldn’t understand why some critics had labeled it a horror. Having now seen the film, I understand. 

This is a weird and unsettling film. It isn’t scary and doesn’t make you jump. You don’t see anything of the horror film that Gilderoy is working on. However, you are aware of the content of each scene and you hear the blood curdling screams.  

This film is not a traditional horror movie, but it is horrific and left me feeling extremely uneasy. 

For example, over the past few weeks I have watched The Descent, The Following, The Babadook, Cabin In The Woods and many other scary movies. Afterwards, I have gone to bed and slept like a baby. 

Following Berberian Sound Studio, I had the most surreal of nightmares. I think my poor little brain was struggling to work through all I had just seen.

I did enjoy this film. For a start, the way Gilderoy creates sound effects is just fascinating.

At one point, Gilderoy is asked to demonstrate his craft by creating the sound of an UFO from a light bulb. It is amazing to see how something so commonplace can create such an otherworldly sound.

Meanwhile, the sound effects for the more gruesome parts of The Equestrian Vortex are created by the smashing of fruit and vegetables. This is quite funny at first but then becomes horrific as it is infused with the violence that Gilderoy can see on screen.   

The film also gives us magical shots of machinery. I loved the scenes of Gilderoy’s sound equipment - all those wonderful buttons, whirs and clicks.

Before long, this simple enjoyment is replaced by a sense of unease and dread.

We see Gilderoy becoming increasingly disturbed by the film’s images - they begin to corrupt his mind. 

Toby Jones gives an absolutely superb performance. He just doesn’t fit in at the studio. The way he dresses, his reserved character, the fact that he doesn’t speak Italian - all of these aspects leave him isolated and homesick.

You are not meant to like Gilderoy, but I did feel sympathy towards him - particularly at the start of the film. Knowing that he will feel homesick, he takes the soundtrack to his homelife with him - his mother’s footsteps, his doorbell, the ticking of his clock.

However, Gilderoy’s bewildered, lost expression soon starts to look more sinister as his mental health unravels like a spool of tape.

Random Observations

I watched Berberian Sound Studio via Netflix. I was surprised to see that the film had a two star rating. I have since looked at film's critical reviews and you can barely move for stars.

Could this be one of those films that only film critics can enjoy?

For me, I think there is much to enjoy - particularly in Toby Jones’ performance.

However, I did find the final act disappointing. The film just lost me at the end. I would go back and watch it again to see if I am missing something, but I don’t want any more nightmares!

Have you seen Berberian Sound Studio? What did you think? I’d love to know. Why not leave me a comment in the box below?

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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