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Review: 'Berberian Sound Studio'

July 25, 2013 12:53 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "Berberian SOund Studio" playing this weekend at the Digital Gym.

Related Story: Review: 'Berberian Sound Studio'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: Film is a visual medium yet a new movie playing this weekend at the Digital Gym Cinema asks us to listen as much as we watch. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says “Berberian Sound Studio” will make you hear horror in a whole new way.

BERBERIAN 1 (ba).wav 1:19

If I tell this is the sound of a watermelon being chopped up…

SFX knife cutting through watermelon.

And tell you it’s a watermelon being chopped up, your mind conjures up one image.

If I play the same sound with the addition of screams and creepy music…

SFX screams and stabbing cabbage…

And tell you it’s a woman being stabbed. You imagine something very different. Now if I show you fruits and vegetables being massacred, and tell you it’s all being done to create sound effects for an Italian horror film then your mind starts spinning in a whole new direction as it deals with the disconnect. This is the clever conceit of “Berberian Sound Studio,” which takes sublime delight in demonstrating that the suggestion of horror through sound can be more disturbing than showing graphic imagery on screen. Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a sound designer hired to work on a grisly Italian horror film.

CLIP A new world of sound awaits you, a new world that will require all your magic powers…

At first it’s hard to imagine this frumpy Englishman as a magician but we soon seen his powers as he makes a light bulb sound like a UFO. As he slaves away, we never see the film he’s creating the sound effects for. We glimpse its opening credits with lurid images of witches being tortured in olden times. But after that all we see is Gilderoy brutalizing fresh produce and recording women screaming so hard that their eyes become bloodshot. The result is both a deliciously witty take on the horror genre and a truly eerie psychological thriller about a man possibly losing his mind.

Director Peter Strickland makes us hear horror in a new way. He also creates an affectionate behind the scenes homage to craftspeople or should I say magicians like Gilderoy.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.