'Artistic choice' to blame for struggle to hear lines Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan admits his ‘artistic sound choice’ is to blame for film fans struggling to hear mumbled lines

  • The British filmmaker says he chooses not to re-dub dialogue during editing

Christopher Nolan has admitted an ‘artistic choice’ he makes while filming could be to blame for viewers struggling to hear what is being said in his movies.

The British director, who has won widespread acclaim for his latest film Oppenheimer, has left some film fans frustrated at actors appearing to mumble their lines.

The ordeal even sparked some watchers, such as BBC News star Jane Hill, to walk out halfway through the showing to complain only to be met with cinema staff pointing the finger at the director.

The 54-year-old himself has said that he goes against the grain and refuses to get his actors to re-dub their lines after filming so they can put in during the editing process.

This means that the dialogue on screen in the cinema was performed during filming and not afterwards, meaning it can sometimes get drowned out by music or special effects. 

Christopher Nolan, pictured here on Fox & Friends on July 20, says he makes an ‘artistic choice’ not to re-dub dialogue after it has been filmed

Oppenheimer has been a hit at the UK and worldwide box office, despite complaints from some viewers about mumbled dialogue

For Nolan, who is being tipped as one of the early front runners at next years Oscars, it’s a price worth paying.

Speaking to Insider, he said: ‘I like to use the performance that was given in the moment rather than the actor re-voice it later.

‘Which is an artistic choice that some people disagree with, and that’s their right.’

The acclaimed director’s movies have grossed billions at the box office despite complaints over the sound mixing in blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises and Tenet.

The filmmaker, who shoots his movies using IMAX cameras, says part of the problem could also be that the equipment he uses isn’t fully soundproof despite improvements in recent years.

‘Actually, Imax is building new cameras right now which are going to be even quieter,’ he told the publication.

‘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.’

Despite the complaints Oppenheimer is on track to become one of the biggest hits of the year at the UK box office, making more than £33million in Britain since its release three weeks ago.

The atomic bomb thriller – which stars Cillian Murphy in the titular role – has also been given a slew of five star ratings while critics branded it Nolan’s ‘best and most revealing work’.

However, it appears BBC News star Jane Hill was certainly not in agreement as she shared that she frustrated at not being able to hear the film’s dialogue properly due to the loud soundtrack – and was even more astounded to learn that the issue occurs in almost ‘all’ of Nolan’s films.

She told her followers: ‘Saw Oppenheimer. Well, managed half of it. Disappointed that music & effects often drowned out the actors, I missed whole chunks of dialogue. 

BBC News star Jane Hill revealed she walked out of Oppenheimer as she was struggling to hear the dialogue

The film, which features Cillian Murphy (pictured) as the lead, has won a slew of plaudits from critics and general audiences 

‘Told the cinema I thought the sound needed rebalancing – staff said ‘we have this issue with all Christopher Nolan films’. Seriously?’

And it appears that several of her followers were in agreement, with some complaining of hearing issues with others confirming that sound issues are common in Nolan films including Batman Begins.

One person wrote: ‘It’s not the cinema, it’s the directors vision. Nolan has done this in a lot of his films.’

While another shared: ‘Colleague at work said that as well about the music drowning out the dialogue.’

‘Seems to be Nolan thing. I recall seeing one of his batman movies and having the same experience’, tweeted a third.

With another adding: ‘Yup. His movies always have sound issues.’ 

Jane was quick to add that she doesn’t blame the cinema for her poor experience, writing: ‘I should be clear that I don’t believe the problem was with the cinema?…. there was nothing wrong with the sound on the trailers!’

Before she then later shared her relief at not being the only person struggling to hear Oppenheimer’s dialogue. 

She penned: ‘Thanks for so many replies to my Oppenheimer observation. I’m relieved it’s not just me who couldn’t hear the dialogue… yet what madness! How can you follow a film if you can’t hear the actors?!’ 

Director Christopher Nolan recently addressed reports that the dialogue in the film is unintelligible due to the sound, confirming in an interview that it was a ‘artistic choice.’ 

Christopher Nolan’s latest epic tells the story of the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, also known as ‘father of the atomic bomb’, with Cillian Murphy nabbing the titular role, in which he delivers a chilling performance. 

BBC News star Jane Hill told her followers on Twitter: ‘Saw Oppenheimer. Well, managed half of it. Disappointed that music & effects often drowned out the actors, I missed whole chunks of dialogue’

Several followers agreed with her, and said it was something they had noticed in previous Christopher Nolan films 

Hill later revealed her relief that she was not the only person struggling to hear the dialogue 

The film received a perfect five stars from Daily Mail’s Brian Viner, who wrote that Nolan ‘magnificently’ balances thriller elements with ‘profound questions about the morality of laying Hiroshima and Nagasaki to nuclear waste.’

As well as Daily Mail’s glowing response, BBC and Empire both offered up five stars while The Guardian, Independent, Financial Times and Digital Spy gave four. 

The historical epic was almost universally praised for its chilling treatment of the development of the first nuclear bombs and for Cillian Murphy’s title performance.

Also getting plenty of praise were Nolan’s astounding ensemble cast of A-list actors — including Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Florence Pugh and Emily Blunt — in small supporting roles.

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