Friday, 15 March 2013

It Must Have Been The Magpies

We live in a slightly impoverished age in terms of cinema. It’s not a crisis, it’s not the end of anything, it’s just a phase that the art form goes through from time to time. It’ll come good. In the meantime, films like ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ are precious commodities, works that are ambiguous in their purpose and meaning without being wilfully obscure; films that require something from the viewer rather than just ten quid and a couple of hours of neutral brain activity.

The ‘story’ is simple: in the 1970’s, an English Foley artist (sound designer) comes to Italy to work on an horror film. Already neurotic, the experience disturbs his mind and he slowly goes mad. I think. As I say, it’s ambiguous in purpose and meaning. What is great about the film is its careful design, palette and attention to detail (the setting is rendered superbly, and it’s like porno for fans of vintage film making and analogue equipment); its enigmatic, episodic structure, and, in particular, a strong central performance from Toby Jones   

Toby Jones is, of course, the son of Freddie Jones which already makes him a firm favourite on ‘The Island’. Aside from that, he’s also a fine (and busy) actor. Here, his weary, crumpled face and haunted eyes perfectly convey his increasing disconnection from reality, an estrangement exacerbated by home sickness and some superbly banal / terrifying letters from his loving Mother.

Many people jumped on the film as an instant masterpiece, but I think this is more indicative of the slim pickings of the age (see above) and that very human desire to ostentatiously ‘get’ difficult material. I think it’s a good film, and an extremely interesting one. I’m going to watch it again a few times before I make my final judgement, though. Fancy that, a film which doesn’t give up all its secrets in the first ten minutes. How marvellous. 


  1. I think you've hit the nail on the head: it's essentially hauntological porn. Porntology, if you will.