It’s safe to say that a Christopher Nolan movie is always an event, with fans dissecting every frame and analyzing every element, but there is one element that has caused a bit of frustration among fans over the years – Nolan’s sound design. A common critique of Nolan’s films, from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES to INTERSTELLAR and even TENET, has to do with inaudible dialogue getting lost in the mix, and it’s a critique that Nolan’s fellow filmmakers apparently have as well.
In an excerpt from “The Nolan Variations” by Tom Shone (via IndieWire), Christopher Nolan revealed that he’s had a lot of complaints from other directors regarding the sound mixing on his films, but that he stands by his choices.
We got a lot of complaints. 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.
Christopher Nolan admitted that INTERSTELLAR “was a very, very radical mix,” but said that he “was a little shocked to realize how conservative people are when it comes to sound. 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.” Experimenting with sound is clearly something that Nolan is passionate about, as he and his team “tapped into the idea of the sub-channel” on INTERSTELLAR. “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 explained. “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.” Christopher Nolan’s TENET, which also wasn’t exempt from sound mixing criticisms, is slated to be released on Digital/DVD/Blu-Ray/4K Ultra HD on December 15, 2020.