Virgin Records America (7243 8 10127 2 7)
Release Date: 2001
|1.||The Death of Lhakpa||3:40|
|4.||Tinle & The Child||2:56|
|10.||Norbu & Karma||1:31|
|Total Album Time:||47:24|
|by Glenn McClanan
August 30, 2003
Himalaya is director Eric Valli's effort to show the drama of cross-generational struggle within the Northwestern Himalayan village of Dolpo in a way that will be engaging to those used to Western cinema. Somewhat surprisingly, this simplistic, slightly romanticized tale succeeds in doing so. The soundtrack does its job to blend traditional Himalayan riffs with more Western melodies, but never truly breaks any new ground.
Himalaya tells the story of the small, semi-nomadic group of people living in the isolated village of Dolpo. Tinlé, the charismatic but curmudgeonly old chief resents Karma, the young man in the community whom Tinlé blames for the death of his son, as well as hates for being insubordinate to the group's oracles. The story is very simple and straightforward, which was smart on Valli's part, as he was working with untrained actors and most viewers have to struggle to adapt to this alien culture. The rise of the bold Karma, and the slow acquiescence of Tinlé are fairly engaging, and we truly care about they and their village making it. The one questionable part is the spiritual element of the story; all along, most audience members take the side of Karma, in terms of his skepticism about following the seemingly irrational decrees of the oracles, but at the end, suddenly, Karma is convinced that the oracles are right. The filmmaker is equivocating here, and it seems like he want to have his cake and eat it too.
The soundtrack, by Bruno Coulais, is solid and appropriate for this film. It is a mix of generally western melodies mixed with local vocals. I have heard one too many New Age tunes mixing traditional vocals with ambient sounds, making for an annoying aural tossed salad. This music is generally on the better end of that spectrum, as Coulais's work does evoke real emotions and unifies the film. It captures both the sense of struggle and the sense of place, which is key to making this film work. This film is as much an anthropological work as it is a drama; and I mean that it a good way. You feel like you are coming out of the film knowing both the characters and, to a degree, the culture. On the more critical side, though Coulais pulls it off, the music is never truly inspired, so though it makes for a good experience as you listen to it, you won't necessarily remember it forever.
I would recommend this soundtrack to anyone who has an inclination toward the Western/Eastern hybrid music that is so popular in New Age circles, or those with an interest in this type of film. It is a spirited and pleasing series of short pieces through which you feel you are being told a rich and moving story. Though it is not truly inspired, it is a CD you can enjoy even without seeing the film, which is not all that common.
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