Features and Columns · Movies

The Subtle Sound Design of Mia Hansen-Løve

Rustling leaves, the gentle rocking of a subway car … it must be a Mia Hansen-Løve film.
Mia Hansen Love Sound Design Bergman Island
IFC Films
By  · Published on February 11th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores sound design in the films of Mia Hansen-Løve.


I have a very strong memory of booting up Miloš Forman’s Amadeus as a kid, only to realize that I’d accidentally played the “soundtrack only” version of the film. Such a cut makes sense for a movie propelled by, and explicitly about, music. And I absolutely think other films should take advantage of this idea on their physical media releases (I for one would relish a version of 2018’s Mandy that cut the dialogue and let Jóhann Jóhannsson’s brooding final score speak for itself).

But the video essay below unintentionally has me hankering for yet another cut-option; one that dulled dialogue and score in favor of foregrounding the aural landscape of sound design. Imagine it: a version of Alien backed only by electronic hums, acidic drips, and hissing pneumatics. Or what about a version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy that allowed all that imaginative, inventive sonic worldbuilding to come to the forefront? Like editing, “good” (whatever that means) sound design should go unnoticed because if it’s doing its job, it’s immersive. Or at least, that’s the idea (films about hearing like The Vast of Night and Sound of Metal are in a category of their own).

But paying attention to sound design can tell you a lot about a director’s filmography; how they flesh out their worlds, what sounds they tend to focus on, and recurring auditory themes that pop up time and time again. The video essay below is a marvelous example of a “practice in hearing.” It stitches together various sonic moments from across the films of French film director Mia Hansen-Løve, whose recent film Bergman Island wowed us at TIFF. The result is a filmography populated with tactility, gentleness, and small moments of unobserved beauty. But maybe it’s best if you see, or rather hear, for yourself:

Watch “Hearing Mia Hansen-Løve | A Lesson in Sound Design”:


Who made this?

This video montage inviting us to contemplate the sound design in the films of Mia Hansen-Løve comes courtesy of the fine folks at Little White Lies, a film-obsessed magazine based in the United Kingdom. Luís Azevedo is the director behind this video. You can follow Little White Lies on Twitter here. And you can check out their official website here. You can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).