Christopher Nolan describes the reactions of viewers to Oppenheimer’s Trinity Test sequence. Oppenheimer was praised highly by critics and is frequently regarded to as Nolan’s masterpiece. The movie is currently nominated for several Golden Globes and is probably going to be nominated for an Oscar as well. Nolan discusses the reactions of viewers to Oppenheimer’s Trinity trial scenario in an interview with Empire. During launch weekend, “every seat was filled,” according to the director, who was present. During the Trinity Test scene, “you could hear a pin drop,” even though the theatre was “packed.”
He remarked, “Emma [Thomas, Nolan’s producer and wife] and I went into the back of Lincoln Square, which has a giant IMAX screen where you can still play 70mm film. And there were two screens – one five-perf 70mm, one 15-perf – and we went from one to the other. When we walked into the back of the IMAX screen, it was just as the Trinity Test was coming to its conclusion. It was absolutely packed; every seat was filled. To be in the back of that theatre in that moment of silence, before the sound washes over the audience… you could hear a pin drop. It was a really remarkable experience. Quite overwhelming, really.”
The nuance in concern is during Trinity’s initial atomic bomb test conducted by Oppenheimer and his team. Instead of a loud explosion, the audience is treated to a slow-motion stillness while Oppenheimer looks at his creation as they signal the bomb to go off. Soon later, the thunderous sound becomes apparent. One of Oppenheimer’s most audacious sound design decisions during the Trinity Test sequence is how it transports viewers to the characters’ experiences rather than just the sound as it is.
Eventually in the movie, Nolan replicates this effect of abruptly stopping the diegetic tune in favor of quiet. Following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer held a press conference to discuss his research. The audience applauds Oppenheimer, and that soundtrack proceeds to play until Oppenheimer grips his forehead and looks at images of people dying from bombs, at which point Nolan abruptly cuts it. Similar to the Trinity Test, spectators can relate to Oppenheimer’s inner monologue more thanks to this audio enhancement than they would have with the actual sound.