Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
With nary a drop of blood in sight, Peter Strickland’s elegantly shot ‘70s-set psychological horror Berberian Sound Studio celebrates the powerful, often under-noticed role that sound plays in movies and the people who create those unique sounds. Toby Jones, in a quietly perturbed performance, is Gilderoy, a meek English sound engineer who’s called into an Italian studio to work on a movie called The Equestrian Vortex, unaware that it has more to do with unspeakable Satanic rituals and horny goblins than horse-riding in the countryside. Things get Kafka-esque pretty soon as Gilderoy senses all is not quite right: the pushy producer is constantly lecturing him on his manners, the accountant won’t reimburse his planet ticket, the director is rarely around, and the movie he’s mixing sounds for is, well.. more than a little disturbing. Not for all tastes, the film’s shambling, glacial pace and lack of resolution will infuriate viewers weaned on conventional storytelling (if you hated Beyond the Black Rainbow, chances are you’ll hate this too...). But Strickland skillfully sustains a claustrophobic, dream-like, off-kilter mood throughout, his camera lovingly capturing the old analog processes of producing cinematic sound while edging the narrative further into a brain-teasing Lynchian rabbit hole. The eerie, dissonant soundtrack by Broadcast adds to the unsettling atmosphere.