Berberian Sound Studio

UK 2012, 92 mins
Director: Peter Strickland

The screening on Sunday 29 January will be introduced by Mark Jenkin and Peter Strickland.

This is a great example of an untrustworthy film – a feeling that you’re in unsafe hands and not everything will be made clear by the end, meaning that the film will continue to play long after the credits have rolled. For me there is also a real thrill in watching foley being recorded directly to loops of ¼ inch tape – a process that I employed when creating the sound for Enys Men and one of my favourite aspects of filmmaking.
Mark Jenkin

A cabbage, a kitchen knife and a microphone: what untold depths of horror can be delved into using just these items? In a parallel dimension it could be a task from Blue Peter. This second feature by Katalin Varga director Peter Strickland is a love letter to the weird territories of foley and film sound and also to giallo, the grand-guignol horror genre carved into the flesh of Italian cinema by Argento, Fulci, Crispino, Avati et al in the 1970s. It follows Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a tweedy, buttoned-down sound engineer, as he leaves the cosy quiet of his home in 1970s Surrey for Italy, to work with Santini, fictionalised giallo producer and impresario. Like Dracula’s Harker, Gilderoy is an innocent abroad, a Home Counties product bewildered by Continental sophistication, an employee increasingly aware that there is something not very… nice about his new employers.

The film opens with Gilderoy arriving at the reception of the Berberian Sound Studio to work on the post-production of Santini’s latest picture, and once there it never leaves. It’s an intensely inward looking piece; in contrast to Katalin Varga (2009), a revenge narrative shot on location with natural lighting, Berberian Sound Studio is entirely enclosed, taking place within a claustrophobic handful of rooms and corridors under electric light. As a film about a film genre it hits all the notes of classic giallo: Santini’s project, The Equestrian Vortex, is an outrageously sexploitational potboiler, overflowing with blood, nubile young women, undead witches, horrific torture and an ‘aroused goblin’.

Berberian Sound Studio is also fascinated by the mechanics of its own form. The camera roves over Gilderoy’s charts, his maps of how sounds and effects will overlay the visuals. It zooms in lovingly on the moment of projection itself: the glare of white light, the dust dancing, the click and whirr of wheels, reels and spindles. But above all, of course, this is a film that revels in sound, its production, its recording and mixing. It fetishises unashamedly the look, feel and sound of vintage analogue recording gear: valves hum, metal reels revolve, spiderwebs of tea brown tape loop round the room, recalling those lingering shots of what was then cutting edge tape technology in other films of the 1970s: Coppola’s The Conversation or Alan J. Pakula’s Klute. At one point Gilderoy demonstrates a device called the Watkins Copicat for lead actor Silvia, dazzling her with the uncanny way in which its simple tape-looping mechanism doubles, triples and quadruples her voice, its echo and its echo’s echo to create a sonic hall of mirrors.

Numerous scene shifts pivot on a shared sound: a shriek that spooks Gilderoy in his apartment might gutter out to become the beginning of a scene with him behind the mixing desk once more, about to press rewind on the same shriek. As the film progresses and Gilderoy unravels, the weight of these sonic illusions and tweaks begins to play on the viewer’s mind. The dialogue is increasingly in Italian rather than English. Is Jones overdubbed you wonder, trying to track the movement of his lips to his lines? Is it a meta-comment on how embedded and native Gilderoy has gone, how thoroughly absorbed into giallo he has become?

The music matches, or rather bleeds seamlessly into and through, the playful use of sound and sound effects. There are pitch perfect pastiches of the soundtracks created for giallo by Italian prog groups such as Goblin (Argento’s Suspiria and Deep Red most famously) – ambitious collages of synth, exotic percussion, musique concrète, electronics and rock that scaled the full heights of hysterical bombast. In fact the soundtrack is largely British, with original music composed by James Cargill of Broadcast, and Nurse With Wound and Roj used elsewhere. In this sense it taps into an aesthetic current in British music known as hauntology: the artists involved (centred on the Ghost Box label) use loving pastiche to recreate a milieu that, since Thatcher, has seemed improbably antique in its commitment to egalitarian modernism and public service fostered in such institutions as the pre-marketised BBC.

Gilderoy is a quite brilliant portrait of a particular type of near extinct British boffinry beloved of hauntologists. ‘Oh, I’d rather not get technical,’ he murmurs at one point, desperate to avoid another intense, Latin conversation. The joke is that getting technical is precisely his strength – at one point he holds a room spellbound with his impression of a hovering UFO, conjured using a lightbulb and a radiator. References to his past work in children’s TV and documentaries set him up as a kind of amalgam of the garden shed inventiveness of Oliver Postgate and the Radiophonic Workshop with the public-service ethos of the Open University. Jones plays him with admirable restraint: while Cosimo Fusco as director Coraggio fills the cramped studio, ruthlessly annexing personal space, Jones’s performance is so understated that Gilderoy’s deterioration can be tracked through his slow decline from perfectly turned out to tie-less, unbuttoned slob.

The viewer never sees a frame of The Equestrian Vortex, apart from the title sequence (brilliantly realised by designer Julian House from Ghost Box), Instead you watch others – Gilderoy, Coraggio, Silvia, Santini – watching it, their faces pallid or blood red in its reflected light. It comes to exist for the viewer as if in negative: things normally hidden or disguised in its production are unveiled and foregrounded. Instead of human viscera, we see the watermelons laid out on tables as studio assistants belabour them with machetes, creating a sound-only orgy of violence. Enacting this violence takes a particular toll on Gilderoy: having to perform endless takes in which, through the proxy of that cabbage and kitchen knife he eviscerates an undead witch or penetrates her with a red-hot poker, becomes a form of psychological torture for him.

Santini’s reaction to Gilderoy’s qualms over the material is intense. ‘It’s not a horror film,’ he insists, ‘it’s a Santini film.’ If it is violent, he explains, it is only because reality is violent and he must convey the truth of reality: he has a moral duty to do so. It’s a revealing moment, when suddenly we could be listening not to Argento or Fulci confronted by Mary Whitehouse but rather to Eli Roth, and Strickland taps into a long discourse about violence that extends far beyond giallo, both further back in time and right up to the torture porn of the present day. Such serious debates don’t dominate Berberian Sound Studio though; more often it’s quietly very funny, especially in its use of Gilderoy for bathetic payoffs – the spell of a bloodcurdling take or sequence will be broken by a mild request for some fresher marrow. It’s a joke Strickland uses brilliantly and returns to often – and perhaps found too hard to resist.
Sam Davies, Sight and Sound, September 2012

When I first moved home from London 20 years ago, I went to a short film screening in a village hall. That night I realised I could make films in Cornwall – that there were people already doing it and, most excitingly, the work was distinct. There was a National Cinema! This film screened on that rainy winter night and represents all that was happening at that exciting and hugely influential time in Cornish film history.
Mark Jenkin

Director: Bill Scott
Production Company: Arts Council England
Presented by: Wild West Films Ltd.
Made under the auspices of: West Cornwall Film Fund
Producer: Robert Smith
Continuity: Mary Anson
Written by: Bill Scott
Director of Photography: Robin Kewell
Lighting: Lucy Gaskell
Editor: Emily West
Production Designer: James Elliott
Costumes Made by: Jeanette Hazledine, Steve Clarke, James Elliott
Make-up: Colin Wyatt
Music Composed by: Jim Carey
Music Performed by: Nankersey Choir,
Falmouth W.I. Bluebells, Jim Carey, Giles King, Chris Roberts, Stu Baker
Sound: Nick Cook

Stephen Frost (policeman)
Jane Wernham, Roger King (accompanists, Nankersey Choir)
Anna Murphy (W.I. lady)
Keri Jessiman (Mrs Keeper)
Ben Luxon (Mr Keeper)
Rem Drew (portrait)
Steven Calamy (cook)
Alan Munden (1st crew)
Simon Hall (2nd crew)
David Shaw (captain)
David Bacon (mate)
Kyla Goodey (vacant girl)
Lucy McMahon (small girl)
Keith Spurgin (shipping forecast)

UK 1999
12 mins

Directed by: Peter Strickland
©: Channel Four Television, The British Film Institute, Illuminations Films Limited, Warp X Limited
An Illuminations Films and Warp X production
for Film4
Presented by: Film4, UK Film Council
In association with: Screen Yorkshire, Geißendörfer Film‐und Fernsehproduktion KG
Made with the support of: UK Film Council’s Film Fund
Executive Producers: Robin Gutch, Hugo Heppell, Katherine Butler, Michael Weber
Produced by: Keith Griffiths, Mary Burke
Co-producer: Hans W. Geissendörfer
Line Producer: Nicky Earnshaw
Location Manager: Emma Woodcock
Post-production Supervisor: Gisela Evert
Post-production Co-ordinator: Katie Bullock-Webster
1st Assistant Director: Alex Rendell
2nd Assistant Director: Anna Brabbins
3rd Assistant Director: Amanda Dudley
Script Supervisor: Marinella Setti
UK Casting Directors: Shaheen Baig, Beatrice Krüger
Written by: Peter Strickland
Cinematographer: Nic Knowland
Focus Pullers: Thomas McFarling, Anthony Hugill
Gaffer: Andy Lowe
Grips: Chris Rusby, James Ray Leary, Simon Thorpe
Unit Stills: Jack English
Visual Effects by: Rushes Film&TV
VFX Producer: Paul Jones, Simone Coco
Projector Special Effects: Andy Lowe
Graphic Designer and Equestrian Vortex Title Sequence: Julian House, Luisa Aribe, Krisztián Kristóf
Editor: Chris Dickens
Digital Online Editor: Emily Greenwood
Assistant Editors: Mátyás Fekete, Andy Hague
Production Designer: Jennifer Kernke
Art Director: Sarah Finlay
Production Buyer: Daisy Popham
Prop Master: Steve Parnell
Costume Designer: Julian Day
Costume Assistants: Anna Reynolds, Jules Goldsmith
Wardrobe Supervisor: Shaida Day
Hair & Make-Up Designer: Karen Hartley Thomas
Hair & Make-up Artists: Karen Teitge, Victoria Wallen
Optical Effects Photography: Tim Sidell-Rodríguez
Original Music by: Broadcast, James Cargill
Written and Performed by: Trish Keenan
Music Supervisor: Phil Canning
Sound Recordist: Steve Haywood
Boom Operator: Jay Radosavljevic
Re-recording Mixers: Markus Moll, Doug Cooper
Sound Post Facility: De Lane Lea
Supervising Sound Editor: Joakim Sundström
Dialogue Editor: Linda Forsén
Sound Effects Recordists: Clive Graham, Colin Potter, Gábor Erdélyi Jr
Screamer: Sarah Redpath
Sound Effects Editor: Christer Melén
ADR Mixer: Andy Stallabrass
Special Guest Screamer: Suzy Kendall
ADR Studios: De Lane Lea, Claire Crosby, Zound London, Tracy Bolgar, Mayflower Studios
Screamers: Patsy Preston, Kata Bartsch, Stephanie Kirby, Rachel McGrother, Diana Rogerson, Eugenia Caruso
Italian ADR Coaches: Massimo Maronini, Jessica Giuffre, Eugenia Caruso
Foley Supervisor: Heikki Kossi
Stunt Co-ordinator: Rob Woodruff
Sound Consultants: Larry Sider, Graham Hartstone, Colin Fletcher, Emanuele Carcone at Alga Marghen
Animal Handler: 1st Choice Animals
Unit Publicists: Keeley Naylor, Zoe Flower

Toby Jones (Gilderoy)
Cosimo Fusco (Francesco Coraggio)
Antonio Mancino (Giancarlo Santini)
Fatma Mohamed (Silvia as Teresa)
Salvatore Li Causi (Fabio)
Chiara D’Anna (Elisa as Teresa)
Tonia Sotiropoulou (Elena)
Eugenia Caruso (Claudia as Monica)
Susanna Cappellaro (Veronica as accused witch)
Guido Adorni (Lorenzo)
Lara Parmiani (Chiara as Signora Collatina)
Jozef Cseres (Massimo)
Pál Tóth (Massimo)
Katalin Ladik (resurrected witch)
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (the goblin)
Justin Turner (Gong)
Miklós Kemecsi (Gong and Philicorda)
Elisa Librelotto, Layla Amir, Hilda Péter, Zsuzsanna Büksi (auditionees)
Adam Bohman (Box Hill rambler)
Jonathan Bohman (Box Hill idler)
Ted Tomlin (Box Hill narrator)
Alfonso (Tag)
Salvatore Greco (Luigi’s assistant)
Massimo Maronini (Gilderoy’s Italian voice)

UK 2012©
92 mins

Walkabout + Oss Oss Wee Oss
Sun 1 Jan 13:10; Mon 9 Jan 20:30
The Stone Tape + Journey to Avebury
Mon 2 Jan 15:40
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Wed 4 Jan 18:30; Sat 28 Jan 16:15
Symptoms + Stigma
Fri 6 Jan 18:10; Sun 15 Jan 15:30
Lost Highway + Jaunt
Fri 6 Jan 20:15; Sun 22 Jan 18:10
Haunters of the Deep + The Living and the Dead Episode 2
Sun 8 Jan 13:20; Sat 14 Jan 20:40
Long Weekend + Between the Tides
Tue 10 Jan 18:20; Mon 23 Jan 20:30
Penda’s Fen + A Warning to the Curious
Wed 11 Jan 17:50
Two Years at Sea + A Portrait of Ga
Sat 14 Jan 18:00 (+ intro and Q&A with Mark Jenkin and Ben Rivers); Tue 24 Jan 20:45
Daguerréotypes + World of Glory
Sun 15 Jan 12:00 (+ intro by Mark Jenkin); Thu 26 Jan 20:50
Sun 15 Jan 18:00; Mon 30 Jan 20:50
Requiem for a Village + The Signalman
Fri 27 Jan 18:20; Tue 31 Jan 20:40
Berberian Sound Studio + Wind
Sun 29 Jan 15:30 (+ intro by Mark Jenkin and Peter Strickland); Tue 31 Jan 18:10

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