Christopher Nolan was shocked that people had complaints about the inaudible sound in his movies. Tom Shone discussed the director’s decisions in The Nolan Variations. IndieWire got a hold of the book and some transcriptions of the Tenet director’s defense for all that volume. For a long time, a lot of his work has bombast in big action sequences and low dialogue. The filmmaker actually admitted that other directors called to say that they had a hard time hearing crucial conversations in movies like Interstellar. However, Nolan wouldn’t go so far as to say that things would be changing. On the contrary, he just laid out why he chose those elements and even argued that he’s not going to change his approach.
“We got a lot of complaints,” Nolan referred to the sound design on Interstellar. “I actually got calls from other filmmakers who would say, ‘I just saw your film, and the dialogue is inaudible.’ Some people thought maybe the music’s too loud, but the truth was it was kind of the whole enchilada of how we had chosen to mix it.”
“It was a very, very radical mix. I was a little shocked to realize how conservative people are when it comes to sound,” the director added. “Because you can make a film that looks like anything, you can shoot on your iPhone, no one’s going to complain. But if you mix the sound a certain way, or if you use certain sub-frequencies, people get up in arms.”
The filmmaker would also note that his choice of composer also had a lot to do with the reception to his films. Hans Zimmer is someone who gets debated heavily among film fans, so the two figures together will invite a host of interactions. A lot of them end up being negative, but there is positive out there.
“A lot of it was the music where Hans [Zimmer] had this organ and he used the absolutely lowest note, which would literally make your chest drop,” Nolan observed. “There’s certain low end frequencies that automatically get filtered out by the software. He took all of those controls off, so there are all those sub-frequencies there. And we did the same on the dub stage. It’s a pretty fascinating sound mix. If you see it particularly in an IMAX theater, projected, it’s pretty remarkable.”
What do you think of the sound design in Nolan’s movies? Let us know in the comments!