Hounds of Love, now playing in cinemas across Australia, was written and directed by Ben Young and is his first feature film. After premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the film has propelled Ben’s career onto the world stage, and he is already directing big-budget American movie Extinction.
The film has had great reviews all over the world, including 4 out of 5 stars from Australia’s leading film critic, David Stratton. This is not a film for everyone but, as one critic said, ‘brave audiences will be rewarded’.
My role on the film was the sound design and mix. As the subject matter is very confronting, the film was a great sound challenge. Much of the action is implied rather than on the screen., and the film relies on the soundtrack to tell the story.
For the house backgrounds, I used all natural sounds—cars, birds, etc.—so that the atmosphere feels ‘normal’. This changes as the camera moves into the room where the girl is held: I shut down all the natural sounds and used low room tones to make it feel tense and isolated.
Planes play a role in the soundtrack. We wanted it to feel that the girl was not too far from home, where planes are heard all the time. I also used the sound of a jet, rather than music, as a tension device in a key scene towards the end of the film.
As there are a lot of screams in the film, much work went into ensuring that they didn’t feel repetitive.
The foley was done by John Simpson of FeetnFrames, who did a masterful job on the chains used to restrain the girl. The actors all walk around the house in bare feet, and so to make it more menacing, I asked John to re-create the footsteps by walking on creaky floorboards, especially in the hall approaching the bedroom.
By the time I got to do the final mix with Ben, I had become desensitised to the shock elements of the film to the extent that I could concentrate on getting each scene as tense or as light as required. We had a lot of fun trying all sorts of elements to see what felt right. Having watched the responses of film audiences since it was released, I think we got it pretty right.
More on Hotel Coolgardie in the next post.
I have also just finished work on a film by Ben Elton called Three Summers—a fun romantic comedy, very different from the experience of working on Hounds of Love!