Sound and Music has a fantastic section called Sound on Film, where you can find several interesting articles already published. On of the lasts is a great interview with sound designer Akritchalerm Kalayanmitr, talking about his work on “Uncle Boonmee”.
The predominant sound in the film is that of the natural world: insects, birds, water and weather. While this is in the background of many films, in Uncle Boonmee it is brought to the foreground. Do you have a fascination with nature?
Yes, I do really like to listen to natural sound, it’s such a relief and mysterious at the same time. It is a very subconscious element for me.
For the sound of this film, the first thing was to make it be realistic, then tweak later. I like to make the sound either hidden or abrupt, depending on the feeling and rhythm. Sometimes I just throw the sound in there just to see what happens. It’s like, expect the unexpected! I think the sound of birds, crickets, or even water are loud in the real life – although colder countries don’t have as many crickets as warmer countries. Some people like to mix the nature sound low because it could disrupt the dialogue; I just feel that the loud ambience might make it more realistic. It’s all about people’s perception: it [nature] is around you, but you do not recognize it.
Also, there is one cricket sound which is hidden in the film somewhere and is also in most of Apichatpong’s films since Tropical Malady. That’s a small thing that I like to do on his films.
The remote location in which Uncle Boonmee is shot has a very unique visual and sonic character – was it important to you to capture the sound of this place, and what was the process like of recording it?
A lot of the ambient sounds that were used in this film were recorded on or nearby our location. They were done by my assistant sound editor who was the production sound recordist, Chalermrat Kaweewattana. Normally the sound was recorded by stereo microphone on a digital recorder. Chalermrat told me that some of the sound which he recorded from the location, he didn’t even monitor while recording because when he did it, everyone had left, it was very dark with no light at all and something was moving behind the bush…so he decided to place the microphone where he wanted and then waited inside the van with his boom operator!
I think it’s quite important to have the sound from the real location, but not always necessary. Most of the sound from the jungle scene is from Ratchaburi, in the west of Thailand. The long cricket sound from the cave to the temple scene was accidentally captured. It was the first take of recording on that day. I was very lucky to capture a very clean and clear sound of that kind of cricket. After that, for the second or the third take, the cricket had gone somewhere else and was not that close anymore.
Read more: In the mix: Uncle Boonmee
Via Music of Sound