James Mather interview: ‘Belfast’ sound

For his acclaimed new film, “Belfast,” writer and director Kenneth Branagh drew deep inspiration from his childhood in Belfast during the Troubles, and his memories played a key role in how the film sounds – especially during the scenes of conflict between Catholics and Protestants that tore through the streets in the 1960s.

“He had some very strong ideas of memories that he perceived with sound, and when he wrote the script, he included a lot of those in there,” sound supervisor James Mather tells Gold Derby during the “Meet the Experts” sound panel. “He very much wanted to strike a contrast between the happy-go-lucky, playing in the streets, the innocence of childhood … and he wanted that to be smashed [by unrest and turmoil] because that was his memory.”

Set in the Northern Ireland capital, “Belfast” focuses on Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), whose parents (played by Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe) are at a crossroads and must decide whether to stay in their hometown or move to England as social unrest envelopes the city. Branagh’s script and direction amplify Buddy’s perspective throughout – Dornan and Balfe are framed in numerous scenes as if to appear larger than life, for instance – and Mather says that Buddy’s point-of-view was a guiding principle for the sound as well.

“It was great fun, you know, there’s a lot of things that you wouldn’t do normally,” Mather says of scenes where Buddy is shown playing with his toys while his parents have serious conversations in the background. “Because it’s sometimes it’ll throw you out more often than not. But in this case [having the sound mix stick with Buddy] kept you locked in with Buddy. And some things you didn’t need to hear. You didn’t need to understand the TV stuff chattering away in the background. And that was a deliberate ploy to get you to stay with Buddy who’s playing with his toys in the foreground. We’re hearing the world as he heard it, there’s stuff going on, but his parents are talking or whatever, but we’re with him and it’s his perception.”

Mather and the “Belfast” sound team are on the Oscars shortlist in the Best Sound category. The film is out in theaters now and is also available via premium video-on-demand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UPLOADED Feb 8, 2022 6:30 am