TIFF12: My Thoughts on Berberian Sound Studio

It so happens that I took a Post-Production sound class last spring and I am quite familiar with the time and effort that it takes to make and record sounds for films. Berberian Sound Studio is about a British sound editor named Gilderoy (Toby Jones), who is called in to do the sound for an Italian giallo horror film called The Equestrian Vortex.

The film-with-the-film is never seen, however we hear the sound effects being created for the brutal and macabre images happening on screen.  All the sounds and music within Berberian Sound Studio come from a diegetic source within the film.  Even the film’s opening credits are from The Equestrian Vortex.

Gilderoy doesn’t have much experience doing the sounds for horror films (a label that the film’s director Santini despises) and he is increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that is tasked to create the sound effects for the horrible acts of violence happening on screen. Even though you never see the horror, the sound alone still makes it frightening.  That really demonstrates how powerful sound is in getting a response from the audience.

Gilderoy eventually becomes so disturbed by the work he has to do, that he eventually starts to slowly lose his mind.  Without spoiling too much, Gilderoy begins to lose touch with reality and starts confusing the world of the film with his own.  In fact, I have to say that the final twenty minutes or so of the film is quite cerebral and is open to interpretation.  This is definitely a film that may have some people leaving the theatre confused.

Despite the unsettling nature of the sound effects, Berberian Sound Studio is actually quite funny at times.  You can’t help but laugh when the description of the scenes, and the very macabre acts happening on screen, are read out loud.  It’s even more humour when you join Gilderoy in the middle of a take (such as pulling the stems from radishes or dropping a squash) and then you learn during the next take what those sounds are supposed to represent.

Overall, I thought that Berberian Sound Studio was an excellent example of how sound can be just as horrifying as picture.  It will definitely end up being one of my favourites of the fest.

 10 | LOVED IT  

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).