SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen Christopher Nolan’s new film, ‘Interstellar,’ stop reading here as the following article may taint your opinion on the film, and there is also a spoiler included in one of the quotes from Mr. Nolan.
Anyways, for everyone that has seen it, you may already be aware (and count yourself lucky if you are not), that there is a little bit of a controversy regarding the audio mix of the film. I know when I viewed it at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater IMAX in Hollywood, I definitely noticed some dialogue was mixed a little low during very loud scenes, and I was curious whether Nolan’s team deliberately made that choice. Turns out, they did. According to a recent interview, Nolan has said:
“I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film,” the director said. “Many of the filmmakers I’ve admired over the years have used sound in bold and adventurous ways. 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.”
And for anyone who thinks he might be making this all up, that perhaps he was unaware of the potential sound mix issue, turns out he has seen the films many, many times in real theaters, surrounded by real moviegoers, and he’s still perfectly happy with how it sounds:
“Usually [I visit] six or seven [theaters]. I like to hear it out where people are going to see it, not just in the cocoon of the dub stage. That is something I have done for years, because everything we are doing is intended to communicate something to the audience,” he said. “The theaters I have been at have been doing a terrific job in terms of presenting the film in the way I intended. “Broadly, speaking there is no question when you mix a film in an unconventional way as this, you’re bound to catch some people off guard, but hopefully people can appreciate the experience for what it’s intended to be…We made carefully considered creative decisions,” Nolan said. “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.”
And lastly, for anyone who might not understand why important scenes between key characters may have unclear dialogue and why a director would possibly want that, here’s more of his explanation:
“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.”
For more from Christopher Nolan, check out the full interview below, and don’t forget to weigh in your thoughts in the comments below. Does the sound take away from the quality of the film? Do you agree with Nolan’s assertion that it is an artistic choice? Let us know!