Christopher Nolan defends Interstellar’s sound issues

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If you saw Interstellar over the last week, chances are that you may have experienced some issues with the sound mix; there have been numerous audience accounts that the soundtrack and sound effects in Christopher Nolan’s latest were too loud, in some cases drowning out dialogue. This problem was originally reported even as early as preview screenings of the film – but depending on the format you saw Interstellar on, results would vary. Regular showings were most heavily affected, while the impact on IMAX screenings was negligent. But now, the director has responded to these claims, via The Hollywood Reporter:

‘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… 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.

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… 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… 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.’

An interesting – if not perhaps entirely satisfying – response. At least Christopher Nolan is standing his ground with his artistic choices, but in such a dialogue-heavy film that relies on verbal exposition, does his defence still hold up? Nolan has been under fire before concerning the sound mix on his movies; 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises was originally criticised for Bane’s speech not being discernible, which ultimately led (apparently) to the mix being tweaked before it was released properly. So, might Nolan end up remixing Interstellar for the home entertainment release?

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