Director: Peter Strickland
Starring: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore Li Causi
Running Time: 92 minutes
Extras: Audio commentary by director Peter Strickland, Interview with Peter Strickland, The making of Berberian Sound Studio, Deleted scenes with commentary by Peter Strickland, Production design gallery, ‘Box Hill’ extended documentary, ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ original short film, Theatrical trailer
Homesickness and claustrophobia are the two main themes of Peter Strickland’s BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO.
Sound engineer Gilderoy (Jones) arrives at Italy’s BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO to begin work on horror film ‘Equestrian Vortex’. Alongside producer Francesco (Fusco), Gilderoy crafts sound effects using fruit, vegetables and anything close to hand before his dedication, and want to return home, conflict causing a crossover of life and art.
The first thing to note about BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO is Toby Jones tremendous central performance. As Gilderoy he lends subtlety, kindness and fear to the role – holding the film together when the plodding pace and directionless story start to grate. Director Peter Strickland creates a tense atmosphere through dull, almost black, lighting and close camera work but the story is confused to the point of ineffectual. Attempting to reach Lynchian standards it hovers around Richard Kelly’s SOUTHLAND TALES in trying to be too smart for its own good.
Story aside, there are things to enjoy in BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO as well as Toby Jones performance; the sound is, as you’d hope, excellent – seeing how effects are created, manipulated, and recorded is fascinating – but there is a reliance on certain sequences, which are repeated four or five times during the film, which begin to grate and bore.
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO is an excellent short stretched out to feature length; it has moments of brilliance, but the padding make this a drawn out, unsatisfying experience, and it appears Peter Strickland was unsure whether to make a horror film or a character study. He’s ended with neither.