Berberian Sound Studio (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 13-Mar-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Writer / Director Peter Strickland
Interviews-Crew-Peter Strickland
Featurette-Making Of
Deleted Scenes
Gallery-Production Design Gallery
More…-”Box Hill” Extended Documentary
Short Film-’Berberian Sound Studio’ Original Short Film
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 92:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Strickland
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Toby Jones
Tonia Sotiropoulou
Cosimo Fusco
Suzy Kendall
Susanna Cappellaro
Layla Amir
Hilda Péter
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Broadcast


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In 1976 Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a meek and nondescript English documentary sound engineer, travels to Italy where he finds to his distress that he has been hired to mix an Italian horror film called Il Vortice Equestre (The Equestrian Vortex), a film full of murder, torture, witches and screams, not the film about a horsewomen he had thought. In Italy he is quickly at odds with the film’s prickly producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco), who resents any implied criticism, and the unhelpful receptionist Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou). Even the film’s charming director Santini (Antonio Mancino) seems more interested in fondling the women voice actors than providing any leadership. Gilderoy is an alien in this world: it is a world he does not understand and he has no-where to turn except to throw himself into his work until gradually the distinction between what is on the screen and his real life becomes increasingly blurred.

     For fans of film, Berberian Sound Studio provides a fascinating look at the era of old fashioned creation and mixing of Foley effects using charts and analogue tape machines. Not surprisingly, the audio track for Berberian Sound Studio is itself superb, fully utilising all the speakers as the mix of Il Vortice Equestre is created in the sound studio. There are the screams of the women in the recording booth, background sound effects, plus the hiss and clicks of the analogue tape machines being used to record the effects. There is a lot of intercutting and sudden changes to the sound level creating a wonderful enveloping feel, but Berberian Sound Studio also makes excellent use of periods of silence as a contrast. The other plus is Toby Jones who is wonderful; his Gilderoy is the quiet Englishman abroad, unsure, out of his depth and gradually coming apart and with little dialogue and his facial expressions Jones makes him real, and very believable.

     Although a homage of sorts to the Italian Giallo cinema of the 70s, one does not need any knowledge of the works of directors such as Dario Argento or Mario Bava to enjoy Berberian Sound Studio, for it is first and foremost a film about filmmaking, and the dislocation between screen and reality. Berberian Sound Studio is a clever, intriguing and fascinating film, although it is not for those who like a straight forward narrative with everything explained. It is a film about contrasts; the quiet, staid Englishman amid the outgoing volatile Italians, the torture, violence and horror on screen (which except for the title sequence and one short scene we do not see) contrasted to the in-studio production of the Foley effects using everyday vegetables. Thus we see watermelons being chopped and hammered, squash thrown to the floor, radishes being pulled apart and cabbage attacked with a knife or thrust into water to create the torture effects within the film. This dislocation between the violence on screen against women, and the creation of the Foley effects for the film sound mix, does ask questions about how an audience reacts to, and is implicated in, the violence they watch, and in the end this distinction disappears for the increasingly distressed Gilderoy. Hopefully, we as audience still can make the distinction, although the possible connection between violent movies and video games and violence in our society is never too far from the news.

     Berberian Sound Studio has tended to divide critics, and those who dislike the film say that it makes no sense, the last act is disappointing and the film hollow. Certainly, those who are used to thrillers that explain everything, or a concise narrative structure, will be disappointed with Berberian Sound Studio, but for me this was low-budget filmmaking at its most inventive and interesting; a stylish film with a wonderful sound design studded with dark humour and excellent performances.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Berberian Sound Studio is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original ratio being 1.85:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Berberian Sound Studio was shot using digital cameras, then manipulated to give the feeling of an older film. Some scenes have a deliberate soft focus and although detail can be sharp and crisp frequently the film has a deliberate smoky and grainy look. Colours are generally muted with a browny palate, but can and do look bright and garish when they want to, especially the reds; examples include the title credit sequence of Il Vortice Equestre, while at other times bright reds are used as stark contrasts. Brightness and contrast does vary, which looks a deliberate choice, skin tones are natural. Blacks are solid, shadow detail can at times be indistinct.

     Other than slight ghosting with movement in front of a vertical surface, such as at 4:33, the print is artefact free, except where scratches and marks are added deliberately such as in the “Box Hill” documentary or the voice casting sequence.

     English subtitles can be selected from the menu. White English subtitles are burnt in for the substantial sections of Italian dialogue. They cannot be removed, which would be annoying for Italian speakers.

     A print that looks as the filmmakers intended.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of English / Italian DTS-MA HD 5.1 or LPCM 2.0 at 2304 . The default, surprisingly, is the LPCM. I listened to the DTS audio.

     As noted in the plot section, the audio is exceptional. This is not a loud or bombastic audio track, such as one gets in action films, but is far more subtle with wonderful separations around the entire speaker set-up. There are the screams of the women in the recording booth, the squish and splat of vegetables used as Foley effects, other background sound effects, the hiss and clicks of the analogue tape machines, ambient sound and music. There is frequent intercutting of different sounds, directional effects and sudden changes to the sound level, including silences, which creates a wonderful enveloping feel. The subwoofer provides good support to the effects.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The original music by Broadcast is electronic and is supported by other avant-garde type music. It was not overdone, and was well represented in the sound mix.

     Lip synchronisation is fine, except in one dubbing sequence, when the out of sync was deliberate.

     A wonderful audio track, as might be expected from a film involving the creating and mixing of Foley effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     A good set of interesting extras, although they could have been arranged better. On the Blu-ray cover the extras are divided into Blu-ray exclusive features, and special features. This later section is listed as including “Behind the scenes”, “Cast and Crew interviews” and “B-Roll”; none appears on the Blu-ray main menu, which does however have a “Making of” tab. The “making of” actually consists of those three extras, run together.

Audio Commentary with Director Peter Strickland

     Writer / director Peter Strickland talks about the funding, the design, influences, the cast and crew, aspects of the sound design, scoring and editing, the repeated motifs and he explains the plot of the film within the film. This is an interesting commentary but it is very dense with names of obscure people. This is because Strickland is very interested and knowledgeable about avant-garde music and experimental and underground cinema, and so mentions lots and lots of names of people who I don’t think many of the uninitiated listening to the commentary would know. As well, after listening I am not sure whether the director illuminated my understanding of his film, or confused me further! Not a usual type of commentary but certainly interesting.

Interview with writer / director Peter Strickland (32:25)

     Strickland answers questions posed in text on the screen. He talks a bit about coming up with the concept of Berberian Sound Studio, the scripting, influences including the impact of music, set design, his way of working, casting, editing and sound mixing among other things. He is not the most engaging speaker but comes across as knowledgeable and genuine.

The Making Of (46:48)

     There are no extra menus within this making of but it does consist of three distinct subsections: Cast and Crew Interviews, B-Roll and Behind the Scenes of Berberian Sound Studio. There are a number of interlacing errors throughout the sections.

     Interviews: Separate interviews with writer / director Peter Strickland, producer Keith Griffiths, producer Mary Burke, actor Toby Jones and Nic Knowland, director of photography. With variations they talk about how the project got started, how they got involved, the character of Gilderoy as an Englishman abroad, their intentions and working with the director. Some of Strickland’s interview is repeated from the longer interview above.

     B-Roll: Approximately 20 short segments of raw on-set footage without any narration or text screens.

     Behind the Scenes of Berberian Sound Studio: Approximately 20 minutes of behind the scenes footage, interviews with the same five people as above (some information is repeated) plus additional interview material with the casting director, sound recordist, costume designer, boom operator, gaffer and nine more of the cast. There is some interesting on set footage, and some of the interviews may have been of more interest if we had not heard them before or, in Strickland’s case, twice before, already.

Deleted Scenes with commentary by Peter Strickland (19:55)

     Nine interesting deleted scenes or extensions of scenes. Two have a text commentary explaining why they were deleted, five have a voiceover by Strickland explaining his decision and the last two have neither. There is no option to play the scenes without the director’s commentary.

Production Design Gallery (20:28)

     This is not your usual production drawings gallery. Instead, we are shown various designs and Strickland explains what they are and how they were used in the film. Included are 5 dubbing sheets (which were designed to actually reflect the film’s sound), a visual music score, 6 designs for analogue tape boxes, Gilderoy’s English reel, the Berberian Studio logo and a film poster for an earlier Santini film. Some of the detail, especially about the dubbing sheets is quite technical, but still fascinating.

”Box Hill” Extended Documentary (5:19)

     The 1976 short documentary about the Box Hill area near Dorking used in the film. Appropriately riddled with scratches and artefacts.

’Berberian Sound Studio’ Original Short Film (1:00)

     Strickland’s original short of Foley artists at work.

Theatrical Trailer (1:36)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are no current release of Berberian Sound Studio in Region A US. Our version is identical to the Region B UK Blu-ray including the UK Artificial Eye branding. Buy local.

Summary

     Berberian Sound Studio is a clever, intriguing and fascinating film, low-budget filmmaking at its most inventive and interesting; a stylish film with a wonderful sound design studded with dark humour and excellent performances. If this sounds of interest, don’t miss it.

     The video looks good and is as the filmmakers intended, the sound design is exceptional. A very good set of interesting extras rounds out an excellent Blu-ray package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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