Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is an English sound technician who has been hired to work on an Italian horror movie. Only that he didn’t know that it was a horror movie, doesn’t speak Italian and the entire company is more than weird. It starts with the apparent impossibility of getting his ticket reimbursed, continues with the eternal rudeness of his boss Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) to the irregular and disruptive appearances of the director Santini (Antonio Mancino). And Gilderoy gets sucked into the movie and this world more and more.
Berberian Sound Studio is an homage to Giallo movies, something I can only parrot here because I never actually saw one. But even when you don’t really have that connection, the film stands pretty well on its own, at least if you like the mindfuckery of Lynch-movies.
I think the thing I liked most about this movie was the fact that we got a look behind the scenes at how movies were/are made. The entire sound process is something that is rarely thought about but it’s such an integral part to film-making, so it was really cool to see the technological and the creative side behind it.
I also really liked the performances. Especially Toby Jones was great in all his Britishness that made him so very lost in Italy in general. Never mind that that movie studio seemed particularly idiosyncratic.
Strickland manages to create a tight atmosphere and one were the job alone seems such a nightmare – and that’s not even taking into account that Gilderoy has to work on a gory horror movie that he personally obviously can’t stomach. Sometimes you wonder why he would stay, but they do make it quite clear – on the one hand, he can’t afford to leave and on the other, most of the alien feeling straddles the line between “it’s just cultural differences” and actual weirdness.
I never really know what to make of Lynchian plot twists. I think they defy interpretation so much (or are open to any interpretation at all) that I usually don’t bother dissecting them. I don’t think it’s really necessary but since I’m so used to interpret all the things, it does leave me at a loss sometimes. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing and in this case the atmosphere was so strong that I could along with everything, no matter how outlandish, and like it.
Summarizing: I think you have to be in a certain mood, but then you’ll enjoy it.