When you think of the 1970's you can't help but picture space hoppers, flares and the Bay City Rollers - yet director Peter Strickland has taken us back to the decade from a somewhat different perspective, reigniting the renowned Italian giallo film genre in Berberian Sound Studio; a stylistic homage to Italian cinema from this period of time.
We witness this dark and surreal world through the eyes of our British protagonist Gilderoy (Toby Jones) who suspiciously lands himself a job at an Italian post-production studio, supplying the soundtrack to the thrilling movies of director Santini (Antonio Mancino) and producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco).
Despite Santini's defiant refusal to call his own productions 'horror' movies - the recorded sounds consist mostly of slashing watermelons, and the screams of stubborn actresses. As time progresses and obstacles appear in the making of this film, Gilderoy has his own personal issues to address, as questions are raised over his mental state and well-being.
Berberian Sound Studio is an intelligent and absorbing feature film that cleverly implements a horror movie within a horror movie. Strickland has created a twisted yet perceptive satire of the horror genre - something also presented in Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods earlier this year. However, Strickland has dissected the genre far more subtly and with more depth than Goddard managed. In a sense Strickland is almost channelling his own ideas through Santini - as the director's rebuffing of the idea his film is a horror, is similar to the introverted approach taken by Strickland.
Although effectively coming from behind-the-scenes of the genre, Berberian Sound Studio manages to remain eerie and alarming. By rights this picture shouldn't be at all scary as we're breaking the genre down and looking at it from a different perspective, in a similar way to how a magic trick wouldn't work if a magician revealed his secrets, yet Strickland pulls it off well.
The majority of the fear emanates from the sound design, as the soundtrack recorded within the film is genuinely terrifying. The screams we hear, or the stabbing of fruit - despite being presented in the innocent surroundings such as a sound booth are still implemented in such a way that adds to the creepy and sinister ambience that exists in this picture.
Jones turns in an impressive performance as our lead - a role for which he is perfectly cast. The very fact he can't speak Italian and remains lost in translation almost adds to the general atmosphere to this film - that of loneliness, and perplexity. He is a character we feel much empathy for also, which further enhances the latter stages of the picture when he begins questioning his very own mindset and morality, as he longs for his life back in England and his dearest mother, who remains in contact through a series of letters.
Berberian Sound Studio is a simply an intelligent and unsettling cinematic piece, and one which comes with so many layers. There is a truly unique atmosphere to this film in what is a quite remarkable feature film - from the editing, to the visuals to the overall sentiment, Berberian Sound Studio is a bold and brave piece of film making that works as a harrowing and sincere study of a cinematic convention we all know so well.