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In the Snow with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

By Nicolas Magenham |

For the film version of Sylvain Tesson’s "The Snow Panther", the Australian duo has created a soundtrack that is both lyrical and peaceful. Splendid.

The wildlife photographer Vincent Munier and the writer Sylvain Tesson were filmed by Marie Amiguet on their quest to find a snow leopard in Tibet. The silences of this documentary are continuously filled by Tesson's voice-over and music by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave (Comancheria, The Proposition). With this soundtrack for The Snow Panther, the two Australians have managed to musically convey the splendour of nature, but also the notions of waiting and patience, which are the themes at the heart of this story.

Harmonic minimalism and melodic simplicity allow the rich and delicate orchestral palette of Ellis - who uses traditional instruments, violin, electronic sounds, and even animal samples - to shine through. The piano (played by Nick Cave) plays a central role in this score: the luminosity of its high notes serves as a counterpoint to scenes such as when our two adventurers discover and settle in a dark cave (The Cave), whilst on the other hand, the ivory-keyed instrument expresses a rediscovered archaism when played in the low register (The Yaks). As for Nick Cave's sublimely cavernous voice, it fits beautifully with images illustrating the wild elegance of certain animals (The Deer, The Bear).

The minimalist purity of this Snow Panther soundtrack is shifted somewhat during the closing credits, when a string quartet, choir and drums accompany the vocals of the Bad Seeds leader, to English lyrics by Sylvain Tesson (L’Apparition/We Are Not Alone). The dream of the snow leopard has now become reality, the hunt has borne fruit, and it is the music that expresses this wonder, with lyricism and tranquillity.


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