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Now Hear Christopher Nolan Explain Why You Can’t Hear Interstellar‘s Dialogue

Don't worry. We'll ask him to speak up.


There’s been some controversy over Interstellar‘s sound mix making some of the movie’s dialogue pretty much inaudible over music and/or eardrum-piercing sound effects. Well, tough. That’s how Christopher Nolan wanted it—eardrums be damned.

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Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter:

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.

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.



-Christopher Nolan

Though to be honest, I understand where he’s coming from. Most of the time I felt confident that the dialogue going on in incredibly loud scenes was meant to be a little unintelligible, and to me it perfectly conveyed the panic and confusion. The one scene where it really stuck out was It didn’t come across to me that the quiet dialogue was due to character emotions rather than technical issues, and the outcry about the “bad” sound mix is probably indicative of the fact that I wasn’t alone.

Nolan went on to explain his artistic vision, saying:

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.

If you’re going to be bold and do something that a “Hollywood movie” wouldn’t normally do, it’s important to make sure the audience gets it. For all the beating people over the head with drawn out scenes of how the plot tied together, Nolan was a little sparing on making sure viewers understood his sound-mixing choices, which is probably the reason so many people just thought it was just bad sound.

Although, I wouldn’t have minded if the sound cut out a bit more during Anne Hathaway’s speech about love maybe being another dimension so we didn’t have to hear it. Keeping the audience from hearing those lines is something I definitely would’ve read as intentional.

(via /Film)

Previously in Interstellar

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>

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