Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Late Night In The Berberian Sound Studio

Saturday morning. It's 2 o'clock in the morning. The lights are off and the air heavy. Darkness surrounds me and the only light in the room is seeping through the TV screen. Yeah, I can't really do dramatics that well but I had to draw you in. Recently I finally got to watch Berberian Sound Studio. I picked up the fantastic release from Artificial Eye (I will provide a link to their website at the end) which has a whole load of special features. This is a film that I had been interested in for a while. I had wanted to watch it a lot earlier because I still at the time of this post, need to compile a top 10 list of 2012. The expectations where so high with this which is something I should stop doing because I sometimes get majorly annoyed or disappointed. Before popping the disc in, I had just finished watching the woeful Sinister. Only thing that's sinister about that flick is the time you're wasting watching it. That being said, the score was really nice but everything else, no. So as you can probably tell, the bar was set low.

Well, what did I think of this film? I absolutely loved it! From the opening scene all the way through to the final name on the credits. However, it's not just because it's a genuinely well made, written and acted film. It goes a lot deeper than that and it actually affected me on a very personal level which is a rare thing for a film to do. The first and most important thing (and probably the most obvious thing) to talk about is the sound. This is essentially a film about sound so you know that the sound engineering and general use of sound is a key factor in the movie. I was watching this at 2 o'clock in the morning with the lights off so you can expect the sound was even more effective. I have never been so hypnotised by a film in such a long time. The score from Broadcast is flawless. Not only is it a great body of work that also sounds like music from time by composers like Cipriani, Goblin and De Masi but it is just used so phenomenally to devastating effect. It's even more powerful knowing that Trish Keenan died, especially when you hear her voice on the songs. You could easily listen to this film and be taken on a journey. I like to experiment and play around with sound in my spare time, so hearing the range of sounds on the score and the chilling distorted, reverb heavy attacks of sound within the film itself added such another level to the score. If you are a fan of the just as unnerving Goblin soundtrack for Suspiria, with it's whispers and screams you will adore the Broadcast score. Overall, the audio alone in this film is genuinely unnerving at times and throughout, images where playing out in my head. Not to mention how the sounds lingered as I tried sleep after making it halfway through the film.

Yes you read that right. I fell asleep halfway through this film. Not because it was boring, far from it. It was such an intense experience that I just had to take a break. It sounds silly I know but it was just one of those moments where what you are experiencing on screen is overwhelming. After finally getting to sleep, I am sure the sounds replayed in my dreams… but it seems whatever those dreams where… they just vanished into obscurity. The following night, I finished the film. Once again, I was sat glued to my TV at 2 o'clock in the morning with no lights. The atmosphere was the same and the feelings I had felt the night before where with me again. The words I am writing here aren't coming close to the experience I had watching this film. The intensity and darkness of this film could match, even outdo most horror films. Not a drop of blood is spilt in this film and there are no demon like creatures or nightmarish characters. The only acts of violence are carried out on things like lettuces. However, this is such a sinister film at times. That feeling I felt the first time watching Suspiria was all too familiar. That feeling of being trapped in a nightmare. Of course in Suspiria it's Argento's use of light, set design and storytelling, the overall visual intensity combined with other worldly like score from Goblin. In Berberian, that marriage of sight and sound is still there but again, it's the sound alone that had the most impact. You almost feel like Suspiria could be the film Toby Jones is working on.

I could ramble on and not get anywhere near close enough to explaining that aspect of Berberian's power. Hopefully, the following paragraphs won't be so hard to express. Aside from the technical aspects of this film, I found myself being affected personally by this film. The major theme I picked up and related to was being a stranger and being surrounded by unfamiliarity. I spent a good 6 to months last year in Germany. I was surrounded by people whose language I still do not fully understand. I was surrounded by a different way of life that was far from my own here in England. Of course, Germany, especially my beautiful girlfriend's apartment is like my second home but those first few weeks was such a surreal experience for me and seeing Toby Jones (of course in a much more serious and different situation than myself) brought back those feelings. It was such a surreal experience revisiting that time and it's something that will stay with me every time I watch this film. The other thing that really struck a chord with me (now this is going to sound weird but hear me out!) was the feeling that everything being played out on screen was done in the very early hours in the morning. I love doing stuff with friends and family when it is late at night, in the early hours of the morning. I also love being in a city when there is no one around and the only company you have is the distant sound of traffic. That ambiance for me is such a beautiful and surreal thing and in a way I felt that when watching Berberian. A dimly lilt room, only a few people around, how can not have an effect?

I hope a few of you guys reading this can at least get what I'm trying to say about the personal stuff and especially about how powerful the use of sound and the score by Broadcast. Overall, this is just a fantastic film and it works on so many levels. It is definitely the best film of 2012 and if you have yet to watch it, please go out and do so. If you love Italian horror and giallo cinema of the era or loves the work of the film composers from those films, you will get a kick out of it. It's not a homage or anything like that so be warned. Of course, it might not be for you and it might just seem too "arty" but it's such a deep experience and even if you don't like the film itself, I demand you to get a hold of the soundtrack and just shut yourself off from the world and listen, that will stay with you for a long time. It certainly keeps popping up in my mind. Will I be watching this film again any time soon? I don't think so. I have only just recovered from my first experience with this film. All I can say is that this is British independent cinema at it's finest.


My video on the film: