Foley? C’est la folie!

So there you are, a balding unassuming and somewhat naive sound engineer guy who likes nothing better than tinkering with tape loops, sync tones, microphones and all the paraphernalia of your trade.  You get the call – “we’ve had our eye on you – fly to Rome and all will be revealed”.   At the studio address you’re given you find yourself given the once over by an improbably hot deceptionist and directed to a studio down the corridor.  You open the door and in the gloom can just make out some menacing shapes holding steak tenderisers.  Welcome to Berberian Sound Studios.

She says your wife would know the difference

Toby Jones is the unfortunate in question hired (on zero lira an hour) to oversee the post production sound on a lurid giallo horror film featuring rape, torture, dismemberment and nuns.  Lots of nuns.  This 2012 Kermode award winner is a deeply strange movie, not so much for it’s ghastly suggestiveness but for being a movie about Foley 1970’s style.  Foley is the process of adding sound effects to a movie after it has been shot.  It’s an essential part of making a film and can take weeks as  only a portion of what you hear in the cinema has been recorded on set where the director is shouting instructions and the crew is making a racket moving equipment to get the right shot.  In Foley all the sounds you expect to hear, even sometimes including lines of the actors’ dialogue, can be recorded in a studio environment, crisp and clear and synchronized back to the visuals.  This is our man’s job, to map out every part of the sonic landscape and capture it on tape, a process few film-goers give any thought to.

This tape will self-destruct in 25 years, minidisc is the future...

This tape will self-destruct in 25 years, minidisc is the future

Being a violent horror flick, there is much fruit and vegetable abuse, performed by a special team of hirsute melon botherers who hack, slash and sizzle their way through an entire month’s Ocado delivery in pursuit of the yuk factor.  In between takes our sound guy is abused, advised, flirted with and sent into a psychological tailspin from being required to find the exact right stand in for human hair being ripped out and worse, much worse. Cleverly (and thankfully) you never actually glimpse the unforgivably misogynistic horror unfolding on screen. only hear it.  No spoilers but the ending is suitably eerie and opaque, and acted by our anti-hero in fluent Italian.

No love I said scared witless not Whitney

No love I said scared witless not Whitney

Really I would recommend this film only to sound engineers with a firm grasp on reality.  The juicy array of vintage analogue equipment is fascinating to behold and the studio period detail the product of meticulous research.  A key scene finds one of the voiceover actresses mesmerised by the effect of the Watkins Copicat – a renowned tape delay unit – on her singing as Toby adjusts the sustain and feedback to create a collage of elliptical echoes.  Here’s a free VST recreation, now run along I’ve got to do three eyeballs and an evisceration by 3.30.


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