Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” follows the harrowing true story of the Tham Luang cave rescue in 2018, where 12 members of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach got trapped in the cave…
Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” follows the harrowing true story of the Tham Luang cave rescue in 2018, where 12 members of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach got trapped in the cave system due to heavy rainfall.
“As a director, I was excited by the challenge of the caves and creating that suspense. And I’ve had some experience that and I was excited to tackle that challenge,” Howard said. “But I was also very challenged by the cultural aspect… I knew it was going to be a daunting challenge and one I had to take very, very seriously because, first and foremost, it really is a Thai story. If I was going to tackle it, I had to handle it in a thorough way with as much understanding as possible.”
In this installment of Variety Streaming Room, senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay spoke with “Thirteen Lives” director and producer Howard, production designer Molly Hughes, composer Benjamin Wallfisch, sound editor Rachel Tate and supervising sound editor Oliver Tarney.
The panelists discussed how they built the system of underground caves for the survival drama, as well as the techniques they used to create the intense and immersive atmosphere.
“We looked into how the sound behaves in water,” Tarney explained. “A lot of it is bone conductivity, which means you have reduced frequency range, which means you’re not hearing as much detail as you would normally hear. The other one is that we can’t calibrate where a sound is coming from — that we can’t triangulate that. So we really ran with that idea.”
“The breathing is so important in this because we wanted to not just see the divers, we wanted to be a diver,” added Tate. “So while you’re watching it, you feel like you’re actually in the tunnels with them.”
For the rescue scenes, Wallfisch decided to introduce a “more mechanical and methodical” sound in the beginning and gradually incorporate something “more emotional, conventional [and] thematic.”
“Ron had this amazing idea of making it sound quite mechanical and quirky, and I wanted to use prepared piano where you pluck the strings and tap the cello strings and nothing was played traditionally,” Wallfisch explained. “A lot of the rhythmic stuff comes from samples of oxygen canisters being tapped and the sound of oxygen escaping, and actually the sound of breath as well made this orchestra of strange sounds that act together rhythmically.”
Wallfisch also developed a voice for the Tham Luang cave using traditional Thai music. “A musicologist friend of mine in Bangkok located a song from the Chiang Rai region,” he said. “That became the voice of the mountain, the voice of the ‘Sleeping Princess,’ but we twisted it into something quite dark and scary.”
Watch the full conversation above.