The Sound of Movies

You may go to "see" a movie, but to sound mixer Mark Berger, who won Oscars for Apocalypse Now and The English Patient, film is just as much about what you hear. "People are not as aware that sound is as highly manipulated" as the images, Berger says. "The visual sophistication is supposed to draw attention.Sound is meant to be subtle, subliminal and not noticed."

Most of Amadeus was shot in the castles of Prague with floors that creaked as if the actors were wearing wicker underwear. When certain scenes had to be overdubbed in the studio with dialogue, Berger used a small weather-beaten wooden rocking chair to re-create those sounds in the foley recording studio. Even something as simple as a falling sheet of paper takes hours of work, research and electronic sculpting. These nuances can play a large role in how an audience reacts emotionally to a scene. "We treat sound like an orchestra," Berger says.

Oddly, Berger's first career was doing brain surgery on rodents. "Working on rat brains wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be," Berger admits. So he took a friend's offer to do some recording for a civil rights documentary, and moved on to the big screen.

Originally released on 70mm celluloid, Amadeus has been dragged into the digital age, thanks to Berger; a new version of the 1984 Oscar-winner for best picture will make its debut at the reopening of the Museum of Fine Arts' renovated Brown Auditorium, in order to show off the new sound system. With Berger's Academy Award-winning sound and a music track that almost becomes a third character, listening to this film will be as much of an experience as seeing it.

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Dylan Otto Krider