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Soundtrack review: Rams (Atli Orvarsson – 2015)

Film scores perfect scores

Soundtrack review: Rams (Atli Orvarsson – 2015)


“Rams” (Icelandic: Hrútar) is a 2015 Icelandic drama film directed by Grímur Hákonarson. In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years have to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. For me Nordic dramas are almost always a great territory for a haunting and depressing score, one of my favorite kinds. I always expect reflective and dark and when the composer is Atli Orvarsson the stakes are even higher.

I love the setup of the film. A remote farming valley sometimes feels like the place I’d want to be in the most. Sometime time moving slowly and the world standing almost still in a frozen scenery is the idyllic place for a vacation. Sometimes all I want to feel is the chill of the winter wind on my face as there’s nothing but barren ground around me. I’d like to run in that setting and be alone with myself. I created this mental setup as the first string curs of “Rams” began. The world around me just faded away and I wrapped myself in the warm blanket I like to call “The Nick Cave and Warren Ellis sound”. This score is minimalistic yes but to me the genre can be divided even more. The way the strings linger … the long notes… the slow piano strokes… everything started with the first Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score I’ve heard and I’ve remained addicted ever since. I might be in the minority here… but every motif from “Rams” is an imaginary hammer which turns my heart into a gong it hits slowly but eternally.

“Preparing for winter” and “Winter” are two cues that echo straight back to my favorite winters as a child and to the many Russian novels I read. I love the comfort of winter. I thrive in the stillness of this season and my mind and body seem to work better. Not only that but I look for winter in each ambient score I hear and I must say Atli Orvarsson created one of the most honest and real winter scores I’ve heard. The organ… the strings… the piano… they represent the howling of the wind, the falling of the snow and the warmth inside that contradicts the cold.

There’s not a lot of variation in the music and this makes the score even better; remember? Still nature… still time… quiet…emptiness…. But not the heavy and depressing kind of emptiness, but the one that each of us can fill with his presence and thoughts… the kind of emptiness that sits there like a blank canvas inviting and inspiring an artist.

For me, “Rams” is a perfect score and I will forever keep it close. If the composer is reading this, I’d like to hear every outtake and alternate cue and try from the sessions. I will build my own hut out of them and I will warm myself at the fire made from “Heart and soul”.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 28 / 28

Album excellence: 100%


03_preparing For Winter
06_they’re Coming
07_into The Highlands
08_after The Storm
10_heart And Soul
11_the Ancestors
12_in The Valley
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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