Christopher Nolan Explains ‘Interstellar’s Sound
Christopher Nolan revealed his reasoning behind the sound in Interstellar, which some viewers have complained made crucial lines of dialogue impossible to decipher.
Viewers Complain About Sound In Interstellar
Interstellar has been lauded as a revolutionary film experience, but not all moviegoers were pleased with the sound, forcing one theater to put up signs insisting that their sound equipment was perfectly fine. “Please note that all of our sound equipment is functioning properly. Christopher Nolan mixed the soundtrack with an emphasis on the music. This is how it is intended to sound,” read the sign, which has since been taken down.
Christopher Nolan Defends Sound
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan confirmed that any perceived oddities in the sound were, most likely, just as he intended. The director revealed that he worked with sound mixers Gary Rizzo and Gregg Landaker and sound designer Richard King, as well as composer Hans Zimmer, for six months to perfect the sound of the film.
“I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions – I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal – picture and sound,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter.
Nolan appeared unsurprised by the confused reaction among viewers, noting that his layering of sound was purposefully done differently than in other mainstream Hollywood films. Furthermore, the difference in sounds was intentional to emphasize the physical experience of the characters.
“We wanted to avoid the traditional layering of sound. We wanted to distinguish the worlds based on very intimate, recognizable sounds. The water planet was a lot of splashing. In contrast the ice planet had the crunch of the glaciers,” Nolan said.
“Dialogue As A Sound Effect”
Nolan’s non-traditional approach to sound also extended to the dialogue, causing some viewers to feel as if they missed crucial lines in the film.
“There are particular moments in this film where I decided to use dialogue as a sound effect, so sometimes it’s mixed slightly underneath the other sound effects or in the other sound effects to emphasize how loud the surrounding noise is. It’s not that nobody has ever done these things before, but it’s a little unconventional for a Hollywood movie,” Nolan explained.
For example, Nolan elaborated on his reasoning regarding a pivotal scene in which Michael Caine’s Professor Brand says something important to Jessica Chastain’s Murph. Unfortunately for the audience, that something important was almost inaudible, but Nolan insists that was the intent of the scene, saying, “The creative intent there is to be truthful to the situation – an elderly man dying and saying something somewhat unexpected. We are following the emotional state of Jessica’s character as she starts to understand what he’s been saying. Information is communicated in various different ways over the next few scenes. That’s the way I like to work; I don’t like to hang everything on one particular line. I like to follow the experience of the character.”
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