documentary Film scores

Soundtrack review: Winter on fire (Jasha Klebe – 2015)

“Winter on fire” is a documentary on the unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. It’s produced by Netflix and I don’t know if I should watch it or not. I’m sure it’s very interesting but it hits a little close to home. I remember that period and that our country was a bit worried that we might get caught up in the crossfire. I guess if we already have a documentary the situation has changed and might be a thing of the past… the score was written by Jasha Klebe.

Lately the documentary scores I’ve heard have tried to stay in the background and not avert the viewer’s attention from what’s going on on screen. I think documentary scores are tough to write and they have an even harder job to please the music listener but with a story as fiery and intense as this one I’m sure the music can’t stay neutral. It’s obvious from the harsh and sharp opening titles which almost point an accusing musical finger at the world.

I like the tense and implacable sound of violin strings being barely touched in “Gathering at Maidan”. The cue made me feel as if I was seeing a crown coming from the distance and I could hear from far away both the cadence of their steps and of the chants. I like the surprise of “St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery” which is so innocent and heartbreaking that I want to rush and protect it from the turmoil outside. This is one of those tender solo violin themes film music composers have taught us to associate with The Holocaust. “March of millions” is as beautiful as you would imagine millions of souls coming together for a common cause, a cause that’s not violent or aggressive. For me this depicts a march of silence.

There’s a lot more emotion and a lot fewer violence in this score than I would have expected. I admit I was prepared for an action packed war documentary music and not for a composition that actually makes me think of peace and of rebuilding what was destroyed. The composer looked inside instead of focusing on the madness outside and this score is a safe place where the souls affected by that could find refuge.

Even the moments that play the fighting scenes are quiet and somber.                 “Trade Union House fire” makes me think of someone trying to cover her years to block out the gun noises while seeing the scene unfold through teary eyes. Another gorgeous violin theme and another reason to listen to what’s clearly one of the most stunning and emotional documentary scores I’ve heard this year. Do not miss this requiem.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 48

Album excellence: 53%

Highlights:

Gathering At Maidan

St Michael’s Golden-Doomed Monastery

March Of Millions

Building The Barricades

Peaceful Rally To Parliament

Trade Union House Fire

Glory To Ukrane! Glory To The Heroes!

End Titles

 

 

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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