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The Brilliant Sound Technique That Makes Dunkirk so Viscerally Intense

We’ve written quite a bit about Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, specifically about the film’s boundary pushing technical brilliance. We explained to you why it matters that the film was shot in 70-mm (and how it affects your movie-going experience), and we wrote about how Nolan and his team’s use of IMAX cameras helped tell one of the most miraculous escapes in military history.

Now, a brand new video essay from Vox’s Christophe Haubursin does a great deep dive on Dunkirk’s score, which was composed by Nolan’s go-to man of music, Hans Zimmer, who was such a huge part of what made Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy so affecting. The subject of Haubursin’s video essay is something called the Shepard Tone, which is described as a tri-tone auditory illusion of scales that goes on and on and on in a perpetual loop. Think of it as the film’s sonic beating heart, which beats faster and faster as the tension mounts. We’d noticed how the sound design in the teasers leading up to the film was so effective, but its taken to a whole, sublimely terrifying level in the feature.

Check out the video essay here, and marvel once again at the attention to detail that goes into a making a film as masterful as Dunkirk. 

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The Credits

The Credits is an online magazine that tells the story behind the story to celebrate our large and diverse creative community. Focusing on profiles of below-the-line filmmakers, The Credits celebrates the often uncelebrated individuals who are indispensable to the films and TV shows we love.

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