Berberian Sound Studio (UK, 2012)
Directed by Peter Strickland
Starring Tobey Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Antonio Mancino
My generation has grown up with a variety of films which have sought to deconstruct or reinvent the horror genre, ranging from spoofs like Shaun of the Dead and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil to more meta-based efforts like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods. The best of both kinds of films are able to highlight or send-up the clichés of the genre while still managing to genuinely scare us. But perhaps none of these films is quite so abstractly terrifying as Berberian Sound Studio, one of the very best films of 2012.
A Clockwork Orange. But the real score is the clicking and whirring of the projectors and tape machines, the flicking of switches and the scrape of record players, all of which are mixed to perfection to keep us constantly on edge.
Peeping Tom. It celebrates and revels in the dark mystique of celluloid, emphasising the ritualistic nature of filmmaking and the psychosis of the director. It characterises Gilderoy as a high priest behind an extremely powerful altar, in which every switch, cable, tape and microphone has a part to play, like the sacraments in some macabre religious ceremony.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Jones captures the essence of a man who is utterly out of his depth and may be losing his mind. Having learnt his craft on nature documentaries, Gilderoy is constantly intimidated by the subject matter he is working with day-in, day-out, and speaking next to no Italian he frequently feels like the world is against him. Jones chooses carefully when to repress his frustrations and when to bring him to the fore, and at times he is as genuinely disturbing as Carl Boehm was in Peeping Tom.
Eraserhead, since both films feature troubled male protagonists and both are essentially built from the soundtrack upwards. You could equally describe it as a leaner, more disciplined version of Inland Empire, if we go along with the idea that the film-within-a-film is somehow cursed. But perhaps the closest comparison is with Mulholland Drive, exploring as it does the dark corruption of the film business, the destruction of innocence, and the way that dreams subtly shift into nightmares. There are visual reflections of this too, with the recurring flashing red lights and message of 'Silenzio' standing in for the blue lights at Lynch's Club Silencio.
as some have claimed, that embracing Lynch's style or imagery has become an excuse for the film not to make any sense. The problem is that the film's execution of Mulholland Drive's dream-reality shift isn't anything like as convincing or fulfilling. When Diane opens the blue box and falls through into the 'real' world, the resulting shifts make perfect sense and the ending gains greater meaning for it. Here when Gilderoy walks through the wardrobe, the film loses its own thread and we are left to wonder what the ending means without any clues, in dream logic or anything else.