Film scores

Soundtrack review: Far from man (Loin des hommes) (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – 2015)

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“Far from men” (original title “Loin des homes”) is a French movie about two men outcast from their respective communities who form a special bond. A French teacher in an Algerian village during the Algerian War befriends a dissident and he is ordered to turn him to the authorities. Viggo Mortensen is the main star and I wouldn’t have expected this movie to be scored by my favorite composer duo Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. A score from them is always a reason for me to get excited. They’ve worked before with Viggo in the wonderful “The road”. The movies they wrote music for until now were either Westerns or post-apocalyptic dramas and I am very curious how a story like this will fit with their distinctive sound. That sound is one of my favorites and their score for “The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” is still among my favorite scores ever.

And here I am drawn again their dark and heavy world, this time accompanied by a deep male voice chanting in a strange language. The music in the main theme starts unbearably tense and continues very scarce, pointing some moments in that man’s speech. It’s a different kind of darkness from what they usually delivered. Piano seems to take charge instead of the usual strings. But it’s Cave and Ellis alright. There are few composers who can deliver unique melodies like they do. The sounds are intentionally slow and dragged to give a feeling of poignancy. There’s an echo to every instrument and the music never gets loud. It gets deep, it gets dense, but never loud. The atmosphere is a permanent wasteland where you are alone with your thoughts and rarely run into anything or anyone else.

I can understand why most people might be turned away for example by a cue like “Blood Cheche”. If you are not a fan of the duo or of bands like Radiohead you will not enjoy this experiment. I know where it comes from, I’ve met it before so I have no trouble sitting down and listening to what this collection of motifs is trying to tell me. But that’s just the most extreme piece of music from “Far from men”. I had fun comparing the “Dust storm” from this score with the one I just heard in “Mad Max: Fury Road”; two completely opposite ways of trying to express the same situation. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ storm chokes you quietly and you only realize you’re inside it once it’s too late.

Then the music returns to that familiar and somber wasteland I love getting lost in. I might run into the carcass of a dream or into an older version of myself; there will be times when the music will enhance what I am feeling and there will be times when it will help me discover thoughts you didn’t know you had. This is the quality of the landscape that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis paint. Unlike “Jesse James”, there’s no moment of release in this score, no moment when the tears can start flowing freely, no standalone cue. If I were to choose my favorite it would be the goose bump inducing dream “Berzina”.

“Far from men” is a heat craze induced vision which will probably be most rewarding for those familiar with the composers. I am, and I enjoyed this marvelous reflective score to the fullest. Think of it as a constant quiet and poignant farewell song.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 53

Album excellence: 78%

Highlights:

Far From Men

The Teacher

Dead Horse

Setting Out

Mountain Scramble

Dust Storm

Berzina

Farewell At Tinguit

No Class Today

Teacher’s Farewell

Far From Men 2

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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