Oppenheimer: Christopher Nolan explains why you struggle to hear his movies

Daisy Phillipson
Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

The Christopher Nolan sound debate is back on with the release of his new movie Oppenheimer, but now the filmmaker has explained why it’s sometimes hard to hear the dialogue in his work. 

Over the years, Christopher Nolan’s innovative use of sound design to enhance the cinematic experience has been lauded by viewers and critics alike. A perfect example is his collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer, which has yielded some of cinema’s most memorable and emotionally resonant scores, as seen in movies such as Inception, Interstellar, and The Dark Knight Trilogy

However, the filmmaker has received complaints for his films’ sound mixing. Think back to the release of Dunkirk or Tenet, when audience members suggested the loud sound effects or music drowned out important dialogue. 

For one of the greatest directors of our time, you’d think this would’ve been nipped in the bud. But some viewers have been making the same complaint with Oppenheimer, Nolan’s historical biopic about the father of the atomic bomb. And now the esteemed filmmaker has explained why. 

Oppenheimer: Christopher Nolan explains why you struggle to hear his movies

In a new interview with Insider, Nolan explained that the reason why some of the dialogue might be harder to hear in his movies is that he doesn’t do additional dialogue recordings, known as ADR. 

ADR is essentially a post-production process whereby actors return after filming their scenes to re-record certain lines in a controlled environment such as a sound studio. The process allows editors to fine-tune the film’s dialogue, but Nolan likes to ensure the scene remains true to how it’s performed. 

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

Thankfully, the complaints haven’t been as loud (pun fully intended) with Oppenheimer, and that may have something to do with improvements in the technology he used to shoot the movie. 

Speaking about the IMAX cameras he uses to film with, Nolan said: “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.”

Oppenheimer is in cinemas now, and you can find more coverage below:

Oppenheimer review | Ending explained | Epic runtime revealed | R-rating explained | Best way to watch Oppenheimer | Christopher Nolan on sex scenes | Cast and characters | Filming locations | True story explained | Is Oppenheimer streaming? | Nolan ranked by Rotten Tomato scores | Is it based on a book? | Age-gap controversy explained Robert Pattinson’s influence | How Oppenheimer died | Christopher Nolan explains strange script | Did Japan ban Oppenheimer? | Review roundup | Does Oppenheimer have a post-credits scene? | Box office | Was Jean Tatlock murdered? | What happened to Kitty? | Why did Lewis Strauss hate Oppenheimer? | Did Oppenheimer win a Nobel Prize?

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About The Author

Daisy is a Senior TV and Movies Writer at Dexerto. She's a lover of all things macabre, whether that be horror, crime, psychological thrillers or all of the above. After graduating with a Masters in Magazine Journalism, she's gone on to write for Digital Spy, LADbible and Little White Lies. You can contact her on daisy.phillipson@dexerto.com