Film scores

Soundtrack review: The snow walker (Mychael Danna & Paul Intson – 2003)

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“The snow walker” is a labor of love project from actor / director Charles Martin Smith. In 2003 he adapted a story by Farley Mowat about a veteran pilot who, while flying routinely over the Arctic ocean is asked by a group of Inuits to take a young girl named Kanaalaq to a hospital. Their plane crashes in the middle of the Canadian tundra, 100 miles from the nearest town and this starts a terrible story of survival for the two heroes. A Canadian movie uses two Canadian composers for the score, Mychael Danna, one of the most famous, and Paul Intson, a new name for me.

This story of isolation is almost hopeless in its evolution and the music makes that clear from the dramatic opening “The end begins”. I feel chills as I listen to this quiet but poignant orchestral theme. Hope appears thought right way in “Charlie’s theme” and this optimistic piece makes me care for the character and for what follows. So far the music is very nice but nothing memorable or unheard of. It’s hard to call it generic because it is beautiful orchestral music but I’ve heard this kind of score for a drama before.

The two composers concentrate on the vast wilderness where the story takes place and they create a beautiful, distant and empty soundscape. I’m having a hard time connecting with it because it’s so beautiful and empty; my kind of atmospheric music sounds different. But here’s where Danna and Intson start to make it interesting: they introduce the ethnic Inuit sounds in their music. They are mainly woodwind instruments, the kind that wail and evoke meditation and mountain folk. “Kanaalaq’s Touch” is where it all starts and the outside world vanishes within minutes. I am hypnotized by the sound of that instrument and if you like world music you will love this one.

The score also includes the obligatory playful action cues which show us the characters fishing or having trouble catching animals. If there is a generic sound for family music, “Trapping Time Lapse” and “Hunting & fishing” would fit right in there. Luckily this is one of those generic sounds that are actually nice and I don’t get bored.

I wish there were more ethnic sounds. I know this would turn the score into something else but it would do more for me. Those instrumental moments were the ones I where I could get closer to this score. If “The snow walker” was a winter landscape I could enter in, I would look at it for a long while accepting its beauty, enjoying the moment, taking all from this look but ultimately I would stay out and remain only with the moments I spent close to it, almost there…

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 50

Album excellence: 17%

Highlights:

Kanaalaq’s Touch

New Boots / Trek To The Plane

A Hunter’s Tools

 

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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