Christopher Nolan is inarguably one of our greatest modern filmmakers, a staunch perfectionist who manages to blend Kubrickian technique with popcorn storytelling. Christopher Nolan is also, occasionally, a giant doofus with the opinions of an alien meeting human beings for the first time. Hot off of Nolan releasing a blockbuster during a global pandemic and worrying studios might “take the wrong lessons” from it, some new quotes have emerged from Tom Shone‘s book, The Nolan Variations, that see the filmmaker absolutely refusing to engage with criticisms of his “inaudible” dialogue.
This is not me, a simple rube, using the phrase “inaudible.” This is, according to Nolan himself, his fellow filmmaking peers, calling him up after the release of Interstellar [via IndieWire]:
“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.”
He continues: “It was a very, very radical mix. I 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.”
Again, it’s genuinely, extremely interesting to read about Nolan’s experimentation with sound, and I’m sure it’s very satisfying creatively to him, personally, to push the envelope that way. But also, like, people need to hear what characters are saying, my good man. Critiques of Nolan’s sound mixing have followed the director for years, from the infamous redub of Tom Hardy‘s Dark Knight Rises dialogue, to the above Interstellar issues, to his latest, Tenet. From our review:
“The problem comes when the action stops and the film starts explaining how it all works, giving the audience clunky lines of exposition through cold and detached readings — as if the actors were nothing but soulless animatronics at a theme park. It doesn’t help that a big part of the dialogue is mumbled and drowned by the metallic sound design and loud score.”
Either way, it’s not likely Nolan changes his ways anytime soon. He’s Christopher Nolan! He makes gigantic crowd-pleasing action-thrillers that, when there isn’t a global pandemic going on, make a crap-ton of money. I just wonder if a storyteller as obsessed with parallels will ever notice the irony of not hearing criticisms about inaudible-ass dialogue.
The Nolan Variations is now available.