Christopher Nolan Explains Why It’s So Goddamn Hard To Hear His Movies’ Dialogue
— Updated on 27 November 2023

Christopher Nolan Explains Why It’s So Goddamn Hard To Hear His Movies’ Dialogue

— Updated on 27 November 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

From Tom Hardy’s Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to pretty much the entirety of Tenet, for the vast majority of his enviable directorial career, Christopher Nolan has faced criticisms about his films’ sound mixing (or lack thereof).

His latest masterpiece of a thinking man’s blockbuster in Oppenheimer — starring an all-star cast led by Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, and Robert Downey Jr — has delivered more or less of the same vis-a-vis the old eardrum department.

But this time around, during the global press junket tour to promote his biographical drama about the titular Father of the Atom Bomb, Nolan’s actually chosen to address what has since become something of a running joke.

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“I like to use the performance that was given in the moment rather than the actor revoice it later. Which is an artistic choice that some people disagree with, and that’s their right,” the director explained to Insider.

By stark contrast, most filmmakers would happily pull their cast back into the ADR (Additional Dialogue Replacement) booth for a looping session at the sacrifice of any would-be pathos.

It also doesn’t help that the big-ass IMAX cameras he shoots with aren’t fully soundproof (see: below). Although Christopher Nolan did point out that the technology has steadily progressed in recent years.

He added: “There are certain mechanical improvements. And actually, IMAX is building new cameras right now which are going to be even quieter.”

“But the real breakthrough is in software technology that allows you to filter out the camera noise.”

“That has improved massively in the 15 or so years that I’ve been using these cameras. Which opens up for you to do more intimate scenes that you would not have been able to do in the past.”

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Christopher Nolan Responds To Sound-Mixing Criticisms

While Oppenheimer certainly hasn’t been the most indecipherable of Nolan’s feature-length efforts to date — that honour will be firmly retained by the mind-bending Tenet… unless he ever decides to make a movie about living inside a literal Boeing 747 turbine — there were definitely moments where you found yourself leaning forward to discern the dialogue.

That being said, the relatively minor flaw to what was largely a stunning cinematic accomplishment did very little to ruin the overall experience. It’s also pretty damn hard to stay mad when the aural component has been balanced out by Ludwig Göransson’s rousing score.

And perhaps there will come a day when we’re simply unable to fault Christopher Nolan for his sound mixing. But today is not that day.

There’s more where that came from: we watched and ranked every single Christopher Nolan movie. Check it out now.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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