Art is meant to challenge its audiences and blur the lines between the real and the surreal, taking us on a ride that will assault the senses that we'll never forget. "Berberian Sound Studio" is a gonzo throwback that keeps the tension high while keeping the gore to a near minimum as we watch a man pushed to the brink and beyond.
1976. A mild-mannered British sound engineer named Gilderoy (Toby Jones) arrives in Rome to work on the post-synchronized soundtrack to The Equestrian Vortex, a tale of witchcraft and murder set inside an all-girl riding academy. But as Gilderoy begins to work on this unexpectedly terrifying project, it's his own mind that holds the real horrors. As the line between film and reality blurs, is Gilderoy working on a film, or in one?
Writer/director Peter Strickland marvels and keeping the audience guessing in "Berberian Sound Studio" as the narrative starts off in a standard enough fashion but it is in the subtle little shifts that it goes completely into the realm of the unclassifiable and that is what makes it a truly unique experience. From the shadows of the studio that may or may not be hiding some sort of unknown terror to the truly unique and haunting score that fills the halls of this truly off putting place that we find ourselves in with our mild mannered sound engineer. Strickland keeps off balance with so many different elements, that when the tension reaches its pitch, we just don't see it coming. Granted I am the first to admit that it's not the kind of film that will be for everyone, however with its peculiar mix of so many different elements that no audience would ever expect it to be such a fantastic mix of tension A sense of dread and eye popping visuals that keep us on edge from minute one, as this Italian sound studio makes for such a lucrative place to mine for so many emotions, and much like our lead character we always feel just a little out of place with the proceedings that are happening in front of us with real aplomb making for a quiet yet unnerving nightmare that we can't look away from
Toby Jones plays it quiet and cool as our sound tech Gilderoy who is increasingly and increasingly out of place the more time he spends there. He builds a great performance out of the disquieting and icky vibe that is slowly engulfing him, it makes for a very fun thing to watch. He navigates each of the individual characters with a varying range of success, until he is broken down completely and we can never tell the movie from the reality. The entire supporting cast oozes sleaze as his character spirals downward making it all the more compelling to watch.
Special features on the DVD include a feature length commentary track with writer/director Peter Strickland, a behind the scenes look at the film, Box Hill Documentary, deleted, extended and alternate scenes, a photo gallery (with an optional commentary) an alternate poster gallery and the theatrical trailer.
When all is said and done, "Berberian Sound Studio" is a strange and deeply nuanced thriller that you just might have more fun dissecting after the fact then you did while watching it.
4 out of 5 stars.