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'All Is Lost' Is Far from Silent, Even with No Dialogue (VIDEO)

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood November 22, 2013 at 1:37PM

In space or on the ocean, no one can hear you scream. Comparisons abound between solo adventures "Gravity" and "All Is Lost," but unlike space, the ocean is far from silent. Even though J.C. Chandor's remarkable open-water survival thriller starring a 77-year-old Robert Redford boldly stepping out of his comfort zone is virtually dialogue-free. Thus the director was totally on board with making the sound design a driving narrative force.
All is Lost
'All is Lost'

The interior was a cut open boat. "You could hear J.C. giving instructions where to spray the hose," Boeddeker continues. "We recorded a lot and I played around with different sounds for the boat creaking. The key was recording the bow wash of a ferry in the San Francisco Bay. It was a mix of white wash, white noise, and low end. I took the sound and panned it around the room, up and down with the movement of the boat, added some sub woofer when it needed a big hit. 

"I was concerned up front about too much white noise, so I took the interior scenes as an opportunity for relief -- powerful but not painful. For the front, I took a stereo recording of sloshing and put it in a reverb that was swarming around you. For the back, I took the sound of a small car to make it claustrophobic." 

This was buried in the reality of recordings by Hymns, a sound vet of nearly 50 years, who's won three Oscars ("Saving Private Ryan," "Jurassic Park," and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade")."Visually the storm doesn't come across as J.C. wanted, so it had to be exaggerated enormously," Hymns explains. 

"I organized a recording trip with a friend in a sailboat on a small craft warning day. I used a quad mic down below and recorded the inside sounds. Steve made recordings on the hull with contact mics. It was good size storm material with layers and layers and appropriate intensity coming and going."

One of Redford's concerns, though, was his breathing. He didn't want it to be a distraction, so they re-recorded it. His breathing has a crucial energy as part of this unique pantomime, but it doesn't overtake the soundtrack. 

"As a sailor and with no dialogue, this project was a miracle. You had to take the lead with sound. And it's not depressing to me. Life is full of rising to challenges and you don't give up. That was Redford."

This article is related to: All Is Lost, Immersed In Movies, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Robert Redford, J.C. Chandor, J.C. Chandor, Sound and Score, Oscars, Immersed In Movies, Thompson on Hollywood

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.