I was thinking this morning about Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar, which I gradually came to dislike more and more as the weeks and months rolled on. I hated, hated, hated the bassy, muddy sound mix. Now, 21 months after it opened wide on 11.5.14, I can say unequivocally that it’s one of my all-time shit list films, and that watching it twice in November 2014 delivered such a terrible injection of lead mercury poisoning that to this day I feel very reluctant to let Nolan into my system again.
I’ve started to think about Inception also, and I think…well, that hasn’t aged well either. I’m not sure I ever want to see it again. I don’t own the Bluray, have never streamed it, don’t miss it in the slightest. I’m completely at peace with the notion of erasing it from my memory except for the Paris cityscape folding up and over…but that’s a cliche now so who cares?
When I hear Nolan’s name or think about Dunkirk, I think “ugh, no, please…not again with the stately, overblown pretension.” And I felt the exact opposite about the guy after Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins and even The Dark Knight.
What tore it for me was that 11.14 interview with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Carolyn Giardina, the one in which Nolan basically said that Interstellar‘s soupy, bass-heavy sound mix was intentional, and that viewers aren’t intended to hear all the dialogue, and that they should try and roll with that instead of complain. In short, Nolan said “too bad but that’s the way it is.”
When I read that interview I said to myself, “All right, that’s it…Nolan has played his last holier-than-thou, Moses-down-from-the-mountain cinematic contempt card…with me at least…eff him and the horse he rode in on.”
Nolan had essentially said “too bad but that’s the way it is” to those who’ve complained about not being able to hear Interstellar dialogue as clearly as they wanted to. Because it was very carefully and deliberately mixed that way, says Nolan, and viewers should, you know, try to get with the program.
Nolan quote #1: “I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film.”
Nolan quote #2: “I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions — I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal, picture and sound.”
Nolan quote #3: “Broadly speaking there is no question when you mix a film in an unconventional way as this, you’re bound to catch some people off guard, but hopefully people can appreciate the experience for what it’s intended to be.”
Do I believe Nolan is “over” in the Terrence Malick sense of that term? No. But I don’t think he can ever make a nimble, clever mid-sized again. When you hear the words “Chris Nolan,” you automatically think “pretentious heavyweight guy, a suffocating big-budget conceptualist…lead weights around your ankles.”