Behind the sounds of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and ‘Dune’ – Mark Mangini
Mark Mangini is a famous US sound designer who has won the Academy Award and has been nominated five times. While sound has traditionally been relegated to post-production he is a firm supporter of ‘including sound in film production from script stage’. He shared his views in Doha Film Institute’s Qumra Master Class.
Mangini believes that what you hear in the movies is as important as what you see on screen because the sound further contributes in expressing the theme, the emotions of any scene. Considering its importance and impact if not more sound should surely be as much importance as the visuals.
Mangini has a very detailed process of creating sound. For him, sound is a very effective story telling tool and he gives his 100% to keep the impact original and meaningful. He even advises the new filmmakers to have their own library of real sounds instead of synthetic sounds like, himself who has a collection of over 60,000 sounds. He focuses on coming with the right sound that complements and depicts the exact mood of the scene.
He has been approached by filmmakers like Gavin O Connor and Denis Villeneuve during their script writing process for advice during the phase of writer’s block or a stage on story where flow of storytelling is stuck. His sonic solutions to such problems have not only been helpful to the writing process but the end results have been irrevocably superb. He contributed his magic to various film projects like “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Gremlins” (1984) and “Dune” (2021).
For “Dune”, Mangini suggested during the script writing process to bring on board a linguist David Peterson to design the Fremen’s Language. The idea was to have a specific language beforehand so that the actors will speak that language on camera instead of adding that in post-production phase. This not only gives a natural flow to the scene but keeps it organic with a better impact on and connection with the audience. That’s one example of being involved at script stage and being proactive in the way that the filmmaker is going to capture the film.
In “Blade Runner 2049” Villeneuve was asked Mangini to “compose with sound” this means he wanted to erase the boundaries between music and sound design. The idea was the collaboration of composer and sound designer as ultimately the end result should be a synergized effort to produce a sound that is effective musically as well as technically. The team achieved that exquisitely and created it as the “Blade Runner Sound”. The team did a thorough study on the movie “Blade Runner” 1982 and payed their homage to it by taking the essence of the movie in form of its unique tonalities.
Mangini also talked about how sound can be used to subconsciously tell an audience something about a character. For one of the scenes of “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) he used a 40-year-old clip of his mother’s pasta sauce bubbling to give the scene of grub boiling an actual touch. In another scene, where a heavy structured character Sapper Morton enters a room, he used various sounds like floorboard creaking and sound of crockery and glasses rattling from across the room to demonstrate the size and weight of the character.
Both his famous projects “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) & “Dune” (2021) were shot in Hungary.
It would not be wrong to say that Mark Mangini is the magician of the sound design industry. His work contributes in adding conviction to the story telling by keeping sounds closer to reality. He also encourages the use of new technology in his field and he adapted to this change as this evolution of technology in the field of sound design contributes in producing innovative yet believable and authentic versions of reality.