Film Talk – Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Last week I enjoyed some late-night horror courtesy of the Film4 Frightfest season. On Tuesday night they screened a film that I’ve been meaning to get around to for some time now, that film being Berberian Sound Studio, the British film-maker Peter Strickland’s second film after his well received debut Katalin Varga (2009)

At the time of its release, Berberian Sound Studio was the recipient of a number of extremely favourable reviews and within 5 minutes of the start, I knew that I’d be yet another to talk about this rather unique film in glowing terms.

Tactile

The word that kept coming to my mind as I watched this film unfold, was tactile; you feel everything in a way that is markedly different to most other films.

It is a film that draws you seductively into a narrative that turns in on itself over and over, like an elaborate piece of origami so that by the end you’re left with something that has echoes of its starting point but that is at the same time thrillingly different.

Incredibly Simple

So what exactly is the plot? This itself is incredibly simple; an English sound engineer called Gilderoy is hired to work on a film in Italy at the studio of the title.

The name Gilderoy is one that for me conjures up images of quaint England, good manners and good old fashioned values and that is exactly what we get in the shape of the perfectly cast Toby Jones.

Used to a quiet life and working on more simple, restrained projects, it is the clash of sensibilities, personalities and approaches to work that provide the friction that propels the story towards its conclusion and deeper into the increasingly fragile psyche of Gilderoy.

The Equestrian Vortex 

Gilderoy has no idea that he has been hired to work on a film that Argento would be proud of, the wonderfully named The Equestrian Vortex, a film belonging very much in the Giallo genre and very much out of Gilderoy’s comfort zone.

During the course of his work he is consistently put in his place whenever he questions anything, from asking questions about the film he is working on, to trying to gain a reimbursement for the cost of his flight to Italy. He is very much the outsider and kept in his place by his demanding boss at the studio, Francesco, and the films director, the ominous Santini whose relationship with the actresses under his direction and his general way with people being the things that lend him the aforementioned ominous air.

No Violence

It is in Gilderoy’s sound work on the film that the tactile elements come to the fore, as we are treated to numerous scenes of vegetables and other food being decimated to create the sound effects for the dark, macabre happenings of The Equestrian Vortex. It is in these scenes that the style and tone of Berberian Sound Studio is amplified and where its credentials as an original, creative and different film take firm hold as, delightfully, no violence is ever shown on screen.

Instead, we simply hear the horror of what is happening in this film within the film and what we do see is out of context, for example, we sometimes witness the actresses recording their scenes in the sound booth, complete with screams, and of course the food being destroyed. The emphasis is on the sound and one of the triumphs of this film is that, rather than this detracting from the power of the film, it actually amplifies it.

In the end this film is about sound, the creation of it, the manipulation of it and the power and seductiveness of the auditory world.

Unnerving

As we reach the latter part of the film, it is the device of Gilderoy being kept in the dark as well as his struggle to cope in such alien surroundings that brings about a gradual, then sudden mental unravelling – or turning in on himself which seems more apt – with more questions being raised (in particular in regards to that reimbursement) and no real answers. This lack of answers does not though feel inadequate.

Ultimately it is the unravelling of Gilderoy that pushes Berberian Sound Studio past simply being very good and different into being something extraordinary. It is a film that looks, feels and sounds fantastic and is beautifully directed, shot and edited.

 

IMDB Rating: 6.2

My Rating: 9/10 (My first 9/10 in a very long time, my first this year and my favourite film this year so far, putting Killer Joe into second place and Side Effects into, well, I’ll leave it as equal second place)

 

Just A Couple Of Things 11

Having checked, it seems my last blog update was on June 30th. We’ll call the break inbetween posts a midsummer hiatus.

It took six months to break my new years resolution of updating my blog at the very least twice a week but happily, the other resolutions have stayed intact. So what’s been going on?

Books

In my last post I spoke about how I was just about to start Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. Well I finished it and found it very enjoyable. I’d probably place it a little behind We Need to Talk About Kevin in the impact it had on me but it was still a good ride.

I’m now in the middle of Doloroes Claiborne by the Kingmeister, and it really is very good. I haven’t read a Stephen King book in years (I think Cell was the last one), but I think this could possibly be right up there with my very favourite book of his, which is Misery.

I’ve got my eye on Chester Himes The Heat’s On for my next one.

I was thinking recently how I’ve read some cracking books this year (1984, In Cold Blood among them), but 2014 will always be the year I remember for reading Infinite Jest – just incredible.

Writing

I’ve managed to have two journalism articles published on Sabotage Times, I’ve submitted a short story to River Ram Press and am finally getting round to finishing the novella that has been talked about on this blog for way too long.

So in regards to writing things have been fairly productive.

Also have a new short story idea to start and am looking to rework a screenplay I wrote last year because I have a new angle for it that I think makes it a whole lot stronger.

Jobs 

I’ve spied a couple of bookshop vacancies and so am going to go in person and hand my CV in to the manager. They’ve all got online applications you can do but I think the personal touch is better.

 

And that, for now at least, is all she wrote.

Just A Couple Of Things 10

Sugar Withdrawal

Back when I started this blog in January I spoke about how I was drastically changing the way I ate and also the way I thought about food consumption in general. I made big changes that I was not only sticking too but that I was seeing the benefit from. One of those changes was the removal of sugar from diet save for alcohol every so often.

Somehow in the last two months I slipped back into bad habits which snowballed and culminated in a lot of chocolate/fast food/bread/biscuits being consumed. So on Sunday I did what I did at the start of the year and went cold turkey and just like last time it has been stupidly hard in the first couple of days.

When your body is adjusting to the new state of affairs everything makes you annoyed which doesn’t make you pleasant to be around, not to mention that you feel lethargic and even a little ill as you brain adjusts to not having false energy pumped into it.

What exactly shook me out of the bad habits I had slipped into again? Well, I ended up watching another food documentary and being reminded just why I changed my habits in the first place. This time it was Hungry For Change and it was one of the better, more compelling ones I’ve watched. I think that to keep up the changes I’m going to have to set aside one time each month where I actually sit down, watch it and remind myself to stick to it and why what is now considered a ‘normal’ diet is anything but.

Reading, editing and finishing my novel

That is my target for the next couple of months. This month the target is to read it and do some edits. Two chapters a day will see it done by the end of the month.

Usually I wouldn’t read back over my work until it was completely finished but because there has been such a gap between when I was last working on it and because there’s over 80,000 words of story to deal with, going back and properly immersing myself in the story before I finish off the final act will in this instance be beneficial.

Books

I finished The Road Less Travelled and thought it was a remarkable book with some great insights and advice that I think could genuinely help guide people to a better understanding of themselves, why they do the things they do and how to break bad habits and patterns to improve their quality of life.

I’ve now moved on to Big Brother by Lionel Shriver which I can’t wait to read, as We Need To Talk About Kevin was one of my favourite books of the last couple of years (the film too was really good).

A Song

Haven’t finished with a song in a long time, so here’s one, and it’s an awesome one.

 

So writers, who do you submit your articles and opinion pieces to?

Just a quick post to put the question that’s in the title out there – what websites/magazines do you target and which have you found to be receptive to your articles and ideas?

I mentioned recently that I was going to start writing articles and start sending them to different places and so far have drawn up a list of websites that would appear to be a good fit for some of the things I want to write about.

As an example of the kind of stuff I’m writing at the moment, today I wrote about the British Medical Association and their decision to vote for a ban on making the sale of cigarettes illegal to anyone born after the year 2000, saying that whilst it is illiberal and probably unenforceable, it is the kind of radical stance we need to apply to the obesity debate to actually start making much needed policy changes in regards to the food industry and the way we as a society think about food.

I’ve also written one on cinema and debating the issue on whether it really matters whether you see a film on the small or big screen.

So now I’m throwing it out there to you and hope to get some responses.

Just A Couple Of Things 9

The estate agents have been in

We now have a fair idea of the price we are likely to get and which estate agent we are going to go with. It’ll be on the market by the end of the week. Things are moving along swiftly and with that being said there isn’t much time or point in dwelling on an impending move that wouldn’t be the first choice of things to do.

But also, it does offer the opportunity of a fresh start and as a family I’d say we’re optimistic people willing to just get on with things.

It’s certainly annoying to hear estate agents go on about how unique and lovely the house is because of all the work that has been done to it, which now of course is of no benefit to us. Coupled with the fact that we will have to move out of London, thus making it unlikely that we’ll ever be able to afford to come back and buy a house in our own city, is again, annoying.

I completed my TEFL course

Yep, I went ahead and finished my online course, now I just to need investigate all the available avenues with a view to possibly making use of it from January onwards.

Looking at agents to submit writing to

I had a little look at a few websites for agents today as my novel came to mind again. Since I last looked there has been a big change in the submission process of one agent which, at first glance, seems a good step forward. I’ll discuss it properly another time.

Last November I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote 80,000 words and haven’t done much work on it since, instead focusing on scripts and short stories.

I started reading over it again and as has been the case whenever I have done this, I’ve been pretty happy with what I produced, hence me thinking ahead. When it comes to things like moving house it’s probably not wise to plan too far in advance but if we could be moved in and settled in a new place in time for me to really go for it at NaNoWriMo again and finish it off, that would be pretty cool.

 

And that’s it for now

 

Just A Couple Of Things 8

Back in a writing routine

Yep, it took a little while, but I’ve finally got back into my usual regular routine. The break in the routine had a lot to do with the impending house move but in the words of Jillian Michaels in one of her fitness videos, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, so I’m getting up a couple hours earlier then I normally would to fit in a few good hours of quality writing time in case stuff comes up during the day, which at the moment is happening a lot.

I’m working on a variety of things at the moment, including a new script and starting to write articles for submission to magazines, which leads me to -

Research  

I’ve done my homework and got a list of sites that I can send articles too, so the aim is to have the first batch done next week and start submitting them for consideration.

TEFL

I’m finally getting round to finishing the last of my TEFL course. The question is whether I will go ahead and take the plunge and actually look to move abroad and use it.

I think the part that scares me is the actual working in a school and being tied in. But, on looking at the options again, there are various other much more flexible options – private tutoring abroad, volunteering – options that appeal to me much more and offer more freedom.

With the increasing imminence of a move away from London, maybe now is the time to embrace a whole range of new opportunities and experiences.

Guardian Debate

I got my tickets for a forthcoming debate on the subject of  ‘Are drugs the answer to learning languages?’

Scientists have discovered that drugs previously used to treat mood disorders can dramatically enhance your capacity to learn. If you could take a pill to boost your ability to learn a language, what are the moral, practical, social and medical implications? How else can these drugs be used? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Quite looking forward to this, the general premise/idea makes me think of the Bradley Cooper film Limitless.

I attended one of these debates last year on the war on drugs, which had a really awesome panel of guests, including David Simon.

These events are free to attend and take place at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, you just have to submit a request for tickets (hopefully there’s still some available).

 

 

Just A Couple Of Things 7

Taking This Blog Forward

Following on from my last post, for now I’m going to settle on a fixed format for my blog going forward. I think my Monday and Friday posts will now always go under the ‘just a couple of things’ banner, and then any extra posts will be longer, more focused posts.

Currently I’m thinking ahead to a few posts that I want to write that seem interesting to me -

  1. Can you (successfully) psychoanalyse yourself
  2. How becoming more neurotic will help England become an international team to fear once more (football)
  3. Did the Blair years make a generation of youngsters grow up with character disorders?

all are just speculative titles/subjects at the moment that I will take my time with over the next couple of weeks.

I’m sure I can come up with a better about page too.

The Writing Schedule For The Next Couple Of Weeks

Following on from entering the Bridport prize for the first time a couple of weeks ago, there are a couple of competitions I will be entering at the end of this month too. One is a short story prize judged by Hilary Mantel, and the other is a poetry prize.

For the Hilary Mantel prize I will be submitting the same story I did for the Bridport plus another story that I am currently rewriting to bring it down from a current word total of over 8000 words to the prize limit of 5,000.

As for the poetry prize, I’m not sure yet. I’ve got one that I will definitely enter, but I’m also working on some new stuff at the moment but as of right now it’s all very sketchy.

I’m never really sure with poetry, I always seem to be off the mark, as in the stuff I think is good usually doesn’t register how I expect with other people, but then the stuff I think really isn’t much good seems to be the stuff that people like. But anyway, I’ll try nonetheless.

My World Cup So Far

By world cup, I specifically mean how well my betting has gone. I don’t gamble much but seeing as it’s the world cup why not, and so far, so good, as I’ve managed to turn the initial 5 pound I put into my SkyBet account into £60, which paid for this -

IMG_1126[1]IMG_1127[1]

 

I’ve got my eye on a couple of Kettlebells now and it will be interesting to see what else I’ll be able to treat myself to through world cup winnings – unless I lose it all of course.