We don’t learn exactly how a fussy English bachelor gets a job as a soundman on an Italian horror movie in ’70s Rome. That’s his profession, and the evidence suggests he knows his craft. But this gig is wrong on so many levels. The longer Berberian Sound Studio goes on, the less it matters how this ill-advised assignment came about. Because this experience unfolds more as a dream than a credible story. And the dream is a nightmare.
That’s the way it goes for Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a mild chap whose warm, loving letters from home are written not by a wife, but—as we discover when he reaches the bottom of the page—by his mother. Of course. Utterly at sea among the floridly warm-blooded Italians in this post-production studio, he’s just as uncomfortable with the content of the film he’s dubbing. It’s a giallo, as the Italians call their style of horror, and the sadistic material onscreen is discomfiting. Though, being British, Gilderoy remains as detached as possible while actresses record their terrifying screams for his microphones.