(This post should also be considered On a Thousand Walls #0)Urban Wyrd article, I thought, aha, this story of a chap working in a sound studio must be part of that, and I initially included it in the list I drew up for On a Thousand Walls, and now I've seen it... it sort of it and it sort of isn't. What is it, then?
|Strike a light, what's he doing to her?|
|Massimo and Massimo will demonstrate.|
Gilderoy never seems to leave; later, we find, his lodging directly abuts the sound stage. And as the film progresses, we find that Gilderoy can't leave.
|This is not a horror film! This is a Santini film.|
Gilderoy, although continually upbraided for his rudeness by producer and director, nonetheless is kind to everyone in the studio, and perhaps this is why one of the voice actors, Silvia (Fatma Mohamed) begins to return his kindness, and confides in him.
|The dead rise.|
He's an innocent. But this world eats innocents up. He tries to leave; both the director and the producer say he is "trying to escape". He tries to refuse to make any more sound effects, as if not doing this anymore will somehow stop the cinematic torment he is forced to watch. It doesn't work.
|Forget the mic. I just want to scream.|
And yes, the film has a big twist. A film like this always has a twist; telling you that is hardly a spoiler. There's always an ...or is he? or an ...or was it? or an ...or is it really? The pleasure in a film like this is working out what the twist will be. Plot twists in films like this, particularly extreme and weird ones, can break a film's plot in two. I had to think pretty hard about the big plot twist in Berberian Sound Studio. It doesn't spell out what it means, just shows you the consequences, and I think that while it seems like it comes out of nowhere, actually there's enough in the set-up to make it work. It's not foreshadowed, exactly, but it is a fairly sensible development.
Essentially, Gilderoy's complicity is inescapable. He's here making this movie, and it isn't so much a horror movie as a really horrible one. It is a horrible, rapey movie that treats women like meat (and veg), and whose actresses are disposable, used.
|The alchemist at work.|
Well. First, it's a movie about horror, a metahorror or an antihorror if you like. The film Gilderoy is working on, Il Vortice Equestre, is about witches tortured to death who come back and wreak bloody vengeance centuries later, as far as you can tell. It's got all the folk horror signifiers, in short. But it's exploitative and nasty, and Berberian Sound Studio wants you to imagine it as really, really horrid. But on the other hand, Strickland clearly really likes films like that. He wants to explore the problems that they have, the nastiness inherent in giallo movies, but he also wants to celebrate the ingenuity that the classic horror film directors had.
|The goblin is here.|
Second, and more importantly, Berberian Sound Studio is about the TV and film of the 70s, and there is a powerful argument that the 70s were a golden age for horror and drama alike, an era where a movie like Psychomania or a TV play like Penda's Fen could be made without executive interference, where people like David Gladwell could get funding to make things like Requiem for a Village. Meanwhile, it was the heyday for giallo movies like Suspiria (and while Suspiria is a film I really don't rate, I'd be stupid to ignore the importance of it). What Strickland has done is bring them together. Berberian Sound Studio is a fond but also critical homage to an era where special effects were home-made and directors could be mavericks because no one in management was paying attention to them, or even watching the films. And it was the era that produced Penda's Fen and The Clangers just as much as it did Suspiria and Don't Torture a Duckling. These things are, Strickland argues, two sides of the same coin.
This is also sort of the one big problem with the film. You're supposed to sympathise with Gilderoy not wanting to take part in the horrors of the film and be disturbed when the movie (figuratively) eats him, but this sits uneasily with the fact that Peter Strickland clearly adores this sort of movie, and the loving homage doesn't quite gel with Berberian Sound Studio's thesis.
Berberian Sound Studio provides a commentary on the background from which folk horror as a genre sprang. It's not so much about the wyrd harvest as about the forest, the furrows, the fields.