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Film / Berberian Sound Studio

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Part-psychological thriller and part-homage to cult Italian horror and the forgotten lore of analogue sound production, Berberian Sound Studio tells the story of Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a mild-mannered English sound engineer who's contracted to work in Rome on the sound effects to an Italian horror film. However, he's more used to making gentle recordings of wildlife, and the relentlessly sexually violent soundtrack he's producing begins to have a profound effect on him.


This film contains examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: The films Title Sequence, done very much in the authentic 70's style, is actually that of the Show Within a Show The Equestrian Vortex.
  • Arc Words: Silenzio.
  • Artifact Title: The Equestrian Vortex. "It's about a horse-riding girl. She's just not riding a horse any more".
  • Casting Couch: Santini apparently recruits half his cast this way, much to the annoyance of the rest of his staff.
    Francesco: (on the new actress' poor performance) You see what happens when you direct with your dick?
  • Chainsaw Good: In the Show Within a Show; Gilderoy has to recreate the sound of a chainsaw chopping through a body.
  • Chiaroscuro: All over the place, but especially the scenes done on the sound stage.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Santini's film is full of this, and Gilderoy is the one tasked with bringing the sound effects to life.
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  • Extreme Doormat: Gilderoy, if only because he's too polite to assert himself at first. As the film progresses, the previously admiring film producers turn on him and cause him to progressively unravel.
  • Fish out of Water: Not only is Gilderoy in a foreign country knowing next to nothing of the language and customs, but he's completely out of his emotional depth with the films content.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Timid Gilderoy is Melancholic
    • Dyspeptic Francesco is Choleric
    • Santini is Sanguine
    • Veronica is Phlegmatic
  • Gainax Ending:
  • Giallo: The Show Within a Show, though the movie itself also has many characteristics of the genre (the strange lighting, the black-gloved Hand of Death and Gilderoy being a Brit in a cast of Italians.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Lots of close-up shots of rotting vegetables.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: Santini takes this view of bringing his vision of "the truth" to life.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Uniquely, Gilderoy's job is all about creating these, and the movie doesn't skimp on the nasty sound effects.
  • Madness Mantra: It must have been the magpies.
  • Mind Screw: The last third of the film. Increasingly out of touch with reality, Gilderoy loses Lip Lock and becomes dubbed in Italian and eventually dissolves into the celluloid.
  • Minimalism: Two locations (the sound studio itself and Gilderoy's bedroom, which may well be in the same building), four main speaking parts and a tiny smattering of extras.
  • Mummy's Boy: Gilderoy. The letters she sends him reveal he still lives with her, despite being at least 40.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: None of the violence accompanying the foley being recorded is ever shown, leaving most of what’s happening to the viewer’s imagination.
  • The '70s: The setting. If anything, this film is even more drenched in the period than Toby Jones' other recent outing in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: Horror variant, in-universe. Santini insists that The Equestrian Vortex "is not a horror film. It is a Santini film. Please do not call my film 'horror' again."
  • Show Within a Show:
    • The Equestrian Vortex, the film Gilderoy is working on.
    • One of Gilderoy's previous works, a gentle nature documentary about Box Hill, is also shown.
  • Shout-Out: As well as the plot sounding like David Lynch would come up with, we're repeatedly shown a flashing red sign saying "Silenzio".
  • Sound FX Tropes: Berberian Sound Studio wears most of these tropes with pride. Much of the film is devoted to showing Gilderoy and company recreating complex sound effects with nothing but watermelons, radishes, food blenders and light bulbs.
  • Surreal Horror: The movie itself, and possibly The Equestrian Vortex as well, which includes such locations as "the secret equestrian library" and "the poultry tunnel." Mostly it just comes across as a cross between Argento's Suspiria (1977) and Bava's Black Sunday.
  • Technology Porn: There are a lot of detailed close-up shots of the sound equipment.
  • Those Two Guys: Massimo and Massimo, two sound technicians who are incredibly adept at chopping up vegetables. One of the Massimo's bears more than a passing resemblance to Lucio Fulci
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe, Gilderoy is shocked by the violent content of the film, whilst everyone else has a completely blasé attitude to it. To a lesser extent, Gilderoy is completely ineffectual at getting his expenses paid because he's far too polite.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In-universe; Santini insists that the events of the The Equestrian Vortex really did happen and it's his duty to inform the world, no matter how much sex and violence he has to stuff into his film. Gilderoy isn't convinced.