BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2012): “just a mite bloodless”

Peter Strickland’s tale about the odd goings-on in a fusty Italian post-production suite is thrilling, complex and abstract all at once.

Toby Jones’ aloof sound engineer has been entrusted with recording dialogue and sound effects for “The Equestrian Vortex”, a horror picture complete with a “dangerously aroused goblin”. Sound is sacred in the Berberian Sound Studio: heard before transforming in front of your very ears to its most sinister possibility. Forget frames. The sound is what’s crucial. It manipulates, bends, speaks. Passion and fascination urge this digital world to grow and multiply. You can hear Strickland crafting his creature of a story out of what he hears, you hear and then what cannot be heard, too.

Ambivalence fills the little voids left between the stories told and movies shown. At one point, the film itself fragments, on the brink of fission.

Might “The Equestrian Vortex” be saying a metaphor a tad too honest about the natural world? Ultimately, nobody can figure out whether the Berberian Sound Studio exists to corrupt or reveal the destiny for Jones’ engineer. With a face suggesting innocence and involvement, Toby Jones gives the performance of his career, and Peter Strickland has emerged as a key British film-maker.

This picture’s vision, audacity and conviction left me feeling very cold in a very warm space (my living room). It rumbles as loud as a winter storm demands you hear it.

Now to watch it with folks…


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