Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio

In the run-up to a British Film Festival we're organizing this November, I'm checking on the selection before they go to the censors. What will they make of Berberian Sound Studio? It's written & directed by Peter Strickland who debuted with Katalin Varga four years ago, and set in an Italian recording studio in the 70s where they're doing post-production and foley for a horror film. The producers have hired a sound engineer, a quiet soft-spoken Brit from Surrey, and basically the film is about him coming to terms with the ghastly film for which he's required to add equally ghastly sound effects. That's it really.
Beneath the surface there is much to admire: notably Strickland's deep knowledge of Italian avant garde composers and experimental music generally, but also the authenticity of the Italian horror genre. Many film buffs know Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) with soundtrack by Italian prog-rockers Goblin. Strickland knows the film backwards but opts not to show blood & guts, instead focussing on the psychological and authentic details like the period recording equipment. But ultimately it's an oppressive experience, set entirely in a darkened studio - except for a brief, incongruous & welcome nature film halfway through, set near Box Hill in Surrey.  
But back to the question. What will Chinese audiences make of it? It's so European, so referential to a particular (and obscure) genre, so 'un-Chinese'... We shall have to see.

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