In the 1970's an English sound engineer named Gilderoy (Toby Jones of The Girl) flies to Italy to work on the sound design of a Dario Argento-type horror film about witches, titled The Equestrian Vortex. The reason he has agreed to do the film is that he wants to meet the famous director, Giancarlo Santini, but it's days before the mysterious man appears at the run-down studio. And it's a let down when he finally does appear. Gilderoy explains that he's never worked on a horror film and the director is aghast. He insists this isn't a horror film but a movie about "the human condition". A condition that obviously includes lots of horrible torture and screaming, as that's what the majority of the sound effects include.
Gilderoy, who is homesick and gets letters from his mother about birds, has to deal with the cruel producer, a standoffish secretary and some unprofessional behavior amongst the director. The movie provokes an unsettling, uncomfortable feeling. Every time Gilderoy is creating a sound effect for a murder or torture, which primarily involves pounding heads or cabbage or breaking celery sticks, you feel as if he's the one responsible for the pain. None of the film he's working on is ever shown to the viewer--we just hear the sounds--and see the torn vegetables--yet this makes these scenes more effective and disturbing. As the film progresses it becomes more emotionally violent and the sound designer's reality begins to blend with the movie he's working on.
Berberian Sound Studio is a great homage to Italian Horror Cinema of the 70's and 80's. No one is actually killed or hurt in the movie yet it's the most violent film I've seen all year. Amazing. Highly recommended. This is on my top ten list of horror films for 2013.