Alex Heffes - Touching The Void (OST)

Director Kevin MacDonald expertly blends vivid reconstructions with hindsight interviews in the gripping documentary Touching The Void, which has resulted in the film capturing the hearts and empathetic minds of British audiences on the way to winning numerous awards. In turn, the musical score composed and conducted by emerging Brit Alex Heffes is a suitable companion piece that helps to mentally measure the arduous vistas the film’s protagonists had to endure.

Touching The Void is a love story. Not in the sexual sense, but more in terms of the hope of reunion. We the audience are aching to find out whether mountain climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are reunited after their disastrous attempt to overcome the Siula Grande in Peru. Whilst trapped in between an almost inevitable circle of doom, Simon was later heavily criticized for cutting the rope that was attached to Joe in order to save his own life. The fact that this action served to save both of their lives has gone unnoticed in favour of the overriding championing of the necessity of climbers sticking together to the bitter end. The film chronicles Joe’s insane bid to survive on his own amidst the bleak weather conditions, despite his horrific accident which caused his tibial plateau to be split in two upon impact with the lower part of his right leg.

Heffes’ score is impressively mature for a relative newcomer. He fuses old-school grandiose film-scoring of the James Horner kind with the delicate subtlety of more leftfield composers such as Ryuchi Sakamoto or Mike Oldfield. Climbing Alpine Style could easily have slotted into the running order of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence or The Killing Fields, whilst the Opening Title theme harks towards Horner’s early-eighties compositions. What is imperative to any dramatic, incidental music score, and a factor that is employed to perfection by Heffes, is the conveying of the sense of dread and isolated futility inherent in Touching The Void. Listening to Starting The Descent gives an indication that the film has many horror stories lurking in the wings, whereas The Storm employs frenetic synthesizer tension with a backdrop of apprehensive string-work.

A Voice In The Darkness adds stark, lonely poignancy, whilst Himalayan Flight gives an other-continent aesthetic which corroborates the idea that the young climbers were far away from home, and very close to death. A beautiful, simplistic piano-introduction launches the End Credits, which could even be used as a thematic suite that incorporates the three-acts of the film’s narrative. On the whole, Touching The Void as a film score is a marvelous addition to any connoisseur’s collection because it reflects suitably on previous composed works whilst still maintaining a contemporary edge. Lasting at just over forty-minutes, there is enough drama at play to ensure that the cuts are never merely incidental filler, and enough merit on show to suggest that Heffes has a fine career ahead of him.

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