1976: ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ is one of the cheapest, sleaziest post-production studios in Italy. Only the most sordid horror films have their sound processed and sharpened in this studio. Gilderoy, a naive and introverted sound engineer from England, is hired to orchestrate the sound mix for the latest film by horror maestro Santini. Thrown from the innocent world of local documentaries into a foreign environment fuelled by exploitation, Gilderoy soon finds himself caught up in a forbidding world of bitter actresses, capricious technicians and confounding bureaucracy. The longer Gilderoy spends mixing screams and the bloodcurdling sounds of hacked vegetables, the more homesick he becomes for his garden shed studio in his hometown of Dorking. His mother’s letters alternate between banal gossip and an ominous hysteria, which gradually mirrors the black magic of Santini’s film. As both time and realities shift, Gilderoy finds himself lost in an otherworldly spiral of sonic and personal mayhem, and has to confront his own demons in order to stay afloat in an environment ruled by exploitation both on and off screen.

Director's Statement

The world of BERBERIAN is steeped in analogue iconography. The film harks back to a time before digital plug-ins. It took a whole room of machinery to do what a single laptop can do now. But what we sometimes forget is how visually powerful and other-worldly these reel-to-reels, oscillators, patch bays and even dubbing cue sheets looked. In this film, sound often comes with its visual counterpart - we see the process of tape loops being assembled, musicians working on gongs, foley artists destroying vegetables. What is just a process in the making of any other film becomes the centrepiece in BERBERIAN as we find ourselves caught in the sprockets of a soundtrack. Despite the heightened nature of many sounds, there is a tangible sonic reality to everything since the soundtrack is diegetic.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Peter Strickland

Written by: Peter Strickland

Produced by: Keith Griffiths, Mary Burke

Cinematography: Nic Knowland

Editing: Chris Dickens

Production Design: Jennifer Kernke

Costume Design: Julian Day

Original Score: Trish Keenan, James Cargill

Sound: Joakim Sundstrom

Cast: Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropolou, Cosimo Fusco

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2013