This well-crafted thriller follows The Bodyguard’s Tom Brooke as a reserved British sound designer thrust into a 1970s Italian film set. Unique, striking, and eerie, Berberian Sound Studio is a sonic immersion where sound makes a lasting and unsettling impression.
Enigmatic director Santini (Luke Pasqualino) hires Brooke’s Gilderoy after seeing his work on a nature documentary. But when Gilderoy begins working at the Italian studio, he realises the film is not about horses as he thought but is a giallo film, a distinctive Italian horror genre full of torture and bone-chilling screams. When Gilderoy is tasked with creating the noise of the climactic torture scene, the bacio interminable, he loses himself into a surreal soundscape that destabilizes (or reveals) his moral code.
Tom Brooke as Gilderoy. Photo by Marc Brenner
Brooke is excellent as Gilderoy, whose naive but hard-working character is challenged by the commanding producer Francesco (Enzo Clienti), and by the two voice actors Carla (Beatrice Scirocchi) and Silvia (Lara Rossi). Rossi’s Silvia offers some of the most compelling moments. She points out the dangers of dismissing one’s everyday ethical compass in pursuit of artistic ‘genius’, and presciently, notes that those affected by such disregard are often women.
Scutt’s direction and design with Anna Yates is mesmerising, showing us the art of Foley (the reproduction of sound effects), performed by Tom Espiner and Hemi Yeroham, as well as the disjunct between what you see and what you hear. The extraordinary sound design by Ben and Max Ringham must be mentioned as well, as it so clearly and methodically establishes the growing tension and downward spiral of the piece.
If anything, Berberian Sound Studio could go further into the surreal world it establishes. The climax, though devastating, feels abrupt and not perfectly punctuated, and the pacing sometimes drops the tension that fuels the action.
Regardless, this uncanny thriller is inventive, absorbing and thought-provoking. Importantly, it challenges the supposed separation between art and everyday life, raising timely questions about artistic integrity and good practice.
|Berberian Sound Studio, Donmar Warehouse review
|Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX | MAP
|Covent Garden (underground)
08 Feb 19 – 30 Mar 19, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|£10 - £40
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