Interstellar Composer: What Audio Problem?

When Christopher Nolan’s divisive science fiction epic “Interstellar” was released, audience feedback included quite a few complaints about the film’s sound mix. It seemed like quite a big portion of the film’s dialogue were being drowned out by the sound effects and musical score.

Whilst malfunctioning cinema equipment was blamed at first, post-release interviews with the crew members suggested the choice was a deliberate one by those involved in creating the film’s sound mix – namely director Chris Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer. Nolan himself then confirmed that the film’s sound was mixed in an “unconventional way” and that the dialogue is “sometimes it’s mixed slightly underneath the other sound effects or in the other sound effects to emphasize how loud the surrounding noise is.”

Now, Zimmer has commented on the controversy in a roundtable discussion for The Hollywood Reporter, saying not only was it not an error but the result of very carefully deliberation:

“You know, one of the things Trent brought up was that we work as a team. For instance, Richard King, our sound designer, Alex Gibson, our music editor, Chris – we are all in this together. And we really discuss what our sonic landscape is going to be, before we even go in. And then the last six weeks are a period where every Friday, we’d watch the whole thing in a different theater and make little notes and stuff.

So the last Friday, we had one week left and I remember watching the movie with Chris and everybody else. And for the first time in my life, I was saying, ‘I think we’re done.’ There is nothing random in it. We made the movie that we wanted to make. And the controversy, if you want to call it that, is, yes, there will always be [one] if you’re provocative in a certain way. These days people will take to the Internet. It seems to be that people who have to take issue with something are going to be the most vocal.”

Whilst it doesn’t appear to have had any impact on the film’s box-office, the big question is will the public complaints about the sound have an impact on the film’s award chances in the sound categories. “Interstellar” is the kind of film that could dominate the Oscars tech awards, but the awkward mix may dampen its chances in some of those categories.