Berberian Sound Studio Review FrightFest 2012

This was the one film of the festival that I was keen on seeing just by reading the short description in the programme guide.

The watchwords for me were weird and British, and I’m down with that.

The plot concerns a sound engineer from rural Dorking who gets sent to work in Italy to produce the audio mix on a horror film. Away from home and immersing himself deeper into the picture as production conflicts arise, things gradually begin to take their toll on his mind.

The graphic violence is kept off screen and the horrors Toby Jones’ character finds himself exposed to are represented only through the sound effects he has to provide in successive takes.

Peter Strickland’s direction of the film is measured and deliberate: slow zooms in and out, tilts and contemplative anchored shots. The performances are deliberately narrowed and allow the soundscape of the film (both of the film and the film-within-a-film) to create much of the tension that bubbles throughout, leaving the viewer with a sense of unease both from what he sees and what he hears.

The film is ultimately a comment about how horror films take their toll on those who work on them and implicates the audience as well as sleazy producers who are well-known to operate in the genre; were it not for the ongoing demand of gore without conscience, sensitive and hard-working film crews would not find themselves wrecked and unpaid at the end of many a shoot.

Unnerving, thought-provoking and a film you have to work for, Berberian Sound Studio deserves your attention when it opens later this week.

A festival highlight.

Berberian Sound Studio

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