Christopher Nolan Responds to All Those ‘Interstellar’ Sound Criticisms
Ever since the earliest screenings of Christopher Nolan's ‘Interstellar,’ there have been criticisms about the film's sound mix—that the dialogue is difficult to understand at times, often overtaken by the sound effects and score. Audiences and critics alike have pondered whether this was a filmmaking error, or a matter of movie theaters not playing the sound correctly, but now Nolan himself has finally spoken up to clarify that the sound is playing as intended, calling the final product “adventurous and creative.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan said that he believes sound is as important to him as the imagery, and he visits “six or seven” theaters to hear how his films are being played to ensure the quality:
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.
Although some people have believed that there are issues with the sound mix or with the theaters' individual sound systems, Nolan confirms that the sound mix for ‘Interstellar’ was intentional, and describes it passionately:
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.
He also admits that it's not as if other filmmakers haven't experimented with the techniques he and composer Hans Zimmer have employed before:
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.
There's much more to the interview as Nolan describes his vision and intentions, but the bottom line from the director is this: the sound mix for ‘Interstellar’ was fully intentional, and it's experimental and artful. And if you can't hear the dialogue properly, it's just a filmmaking technique that you aren't really used to in popular films. He's an artist, okay?