Thomas J. McClean is an AwardsLine contributor.
“Silences can be more frightening than noise,” says Glenn Freemantle, sound designer and supervising sound editor on director Alfonso Cuaron’s astronaut survival drama Gravity. “Your ears can close down (with a lot of loud sounds) and it becomes a big noise.”
The film is not alone in using silence—or near-silence—and a dynamic sound design to amplify the dramatic isolation and struggle for survival found at the heart of Gravity as well as two other contenders, 12 Years A Slave and All Is Lost.
To serve the drama of the story and Cuaron’s realistic vision of surviving in space, Freemantle designed the sound so the audience would hear through the ears of Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, in the limited confines of space suits and space stations. “If she’s touching something and something hits it, you would hear it,” he says. “But if a thing explodes (outside a space craft), you don’t hear it because she’s got no contact with it.”