“Please note that all of our sound equipment is functioning properly. Christopher Nolan mixed the soundtrack with an emphasis on the music. This is how it is intended to sound,” read a sign at Cinemark Tinseltown USA and IMAX in Rochester, New York (via Slashfilm). And while the unauthorized announcement was taken down after word reached corporate headquarters, it’s an indication of just how unique and/or problematic sound mix of “Interstellar” has continued to provide a wide range of experiences for moviegoers (read The Playlist staff reactions to our own screenings right here). Well, Christopher Nolan has finally broken his silence and addressed the sonic backdrop of his sci-fi drama.
Speaking with THR, the director noted that he visited a handful of movie theaters — including TCL Chinese Imax Theatre, the Arclight Cinemas Dome in Hollywood, and the AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York — to check in on what he calls an “unconventional” mix for this movie, and goes on to defend his choices that sometimes rendered the dialogue inaudible.
“We made carefully considered creative decisions,” Nolan explained. “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.”
“The idea is to experience the journey the character is going on,” he added. “[For instance] the experience of being in the cockpit is you hear the creaking [of the spacecraft]; it’s a very scary sound. We wanted to be true to the experience of space travel. We wanted to emphasize those intimate elements.”
Indeed, Nolan elaborates that he wanted the environments the characters were in to sound realistic — racing through a cornfield, or with dust and sand hitting the exterior of a vehicle — even if this meant some dialogue became hard to hear. And as long as the scene is true to the character and emotions, that’s what counts.
“The creative intent there is to be truthful to the situation,” Nolan said about (**spoiler alert**) Michael Caine‘s character in the hospital, “an elderly man dying and saying something somewhat unexpected. We are following the emotional state of Jessica [Chastain]’s character as she starts to understand what he’s been saying. Information is communicated in various different ways over the next few scenes. That’s the way I like to work; I don’t like to hang everything on one particular line. I like to follow the experience of the character.”
But is this an approach that works? Or one that renders watching “Interstellar,” a movie with no shortage of exposition, a sometimes incomprehensible experience? Let us know what you think of Nolan’s comments below. And if you want to see the movie more than once for one price, AMC is now offering an unlimited ticket for “Interstellar” via their AMC Stubs program. Prices range from $19.99 to $34.99.