This film seems to have received quite a bit of critical praise so I was definitely interested in seeing it. Now that I’ve seen it I am left confused by the film. It initially seemed to have a conventional narrative but becomes more ambiguous as the film goes on, playing around with the line between reality and fiction. On the level of performance and technical skill the film is solid especially Toby Jones but the story left me with that “Huh?” feeling. Maybe the film is just too smart for me.
Toby Jones is Gilderoy, a quiet nervous man, who has been hired as a sound engineer by Italian film director Santini (Antonio Mancino) to do the post production sound editing on his latest film When he arrives at the studio the secretary Elena (Tonia Sotiropoulou) has no interest in him but she calls into studio and the producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco) comes out to meet him. Right away Gilderoy tries to find out about claiming back the price of his plane ticket and Francesco promises that it will get taken care of. This is not quite how it goes and Gilderoy gets the runaround from Francesco when it actually comes to paying up.
In the studio two Foley artists Massimo and Massimo are creating sound effects using watermelons. Gilderoy is dismayed to discover that the film he has been brought in to work on is a violent gory horror film about witches being tortured and killed and the watermelons are being used to create the sound of flesh being chopped up. We never actually get to see the film itself but the sound effects created by Massimo and Massimo and by Gilderoy do a very effective job of painting a picture of what is happening on the screen. I really enjoyed this aspect of film, just seeing the way the sound is put together in a film and it highlights they way that many of the scares and emotions in a film are communicated through the sound.
Gilderoy gets on with his job and tries to stay out of the office politics but he find himself getting involved with one of the actors Silvia (Fatma Mohamed) who has a very bad opinion of Francesco and an even worse opinion of Santini. Silvia tells Gilderoy to stand up for himself or he’ll never see any money. Francesco is all business and wants people to get on with their work but Santini is completely full of himself and takes offence when Gilderoy calls his film a horror film. He claims he’s confronting people with historical truth that must be uncovered and this truth includes a lot of scenes of attractive women being graphically tortured. Santini is very fond of attractive women even if some of them are not that interested in him and really don’t like his hands on coaching methods.
The film blurs the lines between the fictional reality and the fictional fiction in a way that will be familiar to anyone who has watched David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Gilderoy’s life starts unravelling into the fiction he’s working on. This starts off pretty subtly as the film continues it’s like Gilderoy get totally absorbed into the film’s fiction.
This film has definitely left me feeling a bit befuddled but then that is often my first reaction to watching David Lynch’s films and I am not sure if the film has interpretations that would help it make sense. Is Gilderoy always a character in Santini’s film? Is the film real or is Gilderoy mad and dreaming everything? The straightforward interpretation that what we see on screen is actually what happened is not available by the end of the film but it also doesn’t make it clear what has being going on either.