Music Composed by: Yann Tiersen
Movie Genre: Documentary
Movie & Soundtrack Release (CD): 2008
Label: EMI Music France
Available also as a digital stream/download

“Deep in its simplicity. Captivating in its familiarity.
With a characteristic directness permeating it,
the music of Yann Tiersen for the documentary “Tabarly”
manages to excel in sketching the portrait
of the legendary sailor Eric Tabarly.”

Yann Tiersen is a special musician who made a career away from the cinema for several years, until a director heard his music. Jean-Pierre Jeunet decided to use some of his tracks because he considered that they fitted perfectly in the atmosphere of the movie he directed at the time, which was entitled “Amelie” (2001). Some additional fresh compositions completed the musical puzzle of the movie. Its release in the cinemas created a buzz and perhaps the main reason was the music of Yann Tiersen, which fascinated the viewers. And suddenly, the fans of his music multiplied and the cinema started seeking his style, again and again. The following excursions of Yann Tiersen on the big screen did not borrow his tracks from previous works, but had new musical material, written especially for these. Those who loved his music for the movie “Amelie”, had the chance to remember their love for his musical imprint in the movie “Good Bye, Lenin!” (2003) and a few years later, to enjoy the musical profile of a sailor, by Yann Tiersen, in the documentary “Tabarly” (2008).

It is a French production about the life story of the French sailor Eric Tabarly (1931-1998) and the passion he had for sea and sailing. Eric Tabarly has been the greatest figure of his country in the field of sailing, with countless victories in sailing races and two championships in Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race (S.T.A.R.), which took place every four years. He sailed all by himself 3,300 nautical miles on the Atlantic Ocean and finished first in 27 days in 1964 and in 24 days in 1976! What music does Yann Tiersen compose for the man who used to break the waves and conquer the oceans?

Before we reach there, it is worth to mention something that preceded the composition. The decision of whoever proposed this particular musician to undertake this musical task. The selection of the composer in a cinema project, like this, is crucial, because there may be surprises, sometimes unpleasant ones, when the selection of the composer is far from being characterized as ideal. It seems that the one who made it, had the ability to sense that the identity of Yann Tiersen as a musician is entirely consistent with the musical needs of the documentary “Tabarly”. Eric Tabarly was a shy, reserved, meek, quiet and calm person. These characteristics of his personality are on the focus of Tiersen’s compositions, which in combination with the feelings he experiences, outline the entire musical portrait of the sailor. The emphasis on specific and few musical instruments, which Yann Tiersen loves to perform, gives a more personal signature in the music and a more inward manner in highlighting the feelings experienced by the conqueror of the oceans. Having said the above, which is the musical instrument that would best express the being of Eric Tabarly?

Which other than the piano, which is the leading instrument in the movie’s soundtrack, and, secondarily, the guitar. Both are instruments that express the epitome of warmth, comfort and familiarity, more than any others. But they are also the ideal ones to highlight the endless solitude of the legendary sailor. And let’s not forget that he achieved his two transatlantic triumphs being alone on his sailing boat. Out on the ocean, there were only he and nature, nobody else. The fight against the waves may be solitary, but indeed how free can you feel on the deck of a sailing boat crossing the sea. Endless solitude and absolute freedom, so inextricably interwoven in the most important moments of the life of Eric Tabarly. Endless solitude and absolute freedom, how aptly and beautifully are these expressed by the music of Yann Tiersen. The soundtrack focuses on the human and the soul of Eric Tabarly, not on the sport of sailing and its adrenaline. If it focused on the latter, its musical implementation should of course be very different. But then we would talk about a soundtrack alien to the identity of the legendary sailor. And the one who would write the music of such an alternative approach, would definitely not be Yann Tiersen.

Another parameter of critical importance to the role of music in the documentary is its placement. Namely, where there is music and where there is not. Its appearance is occasional and there is a reason for that. The sounds of the sea, the wind, the sailing boat and also the narration of Eric Tabarly himself occupy an important part of the entire audio portion of the movie. This does not mean, of course, that the music does not have opportunities to stand out. When it appears at the right moments, even if its presence is not frequent, then you notice it more and its role is, thus, expanded. Quality prevails over quantity. The balance between the presence and absence of music in a movie is a difficult wager, which does not have absolute rules. It depends on the movie, the objectives of the director and on what the composer considers as best for it. Like this, the soundtrack of “Tabarly” avoids verbosity, does not drown out the images, leaving sometimes the realistic sounds to become music. The sounds of the sea and the wind are the most frequent ones during the documentary and it seems that Yann Tiersen felt, in several scenes, that these work as a satisfactory substitute for actual music.

The first acquaintance of Eric Tabarly with sailing happened when, as a little boy, he beheld his father’s sailing boat on the Odet river in France, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Some violins in the background and a piano accompany these first experiences of Eric Tabarly in sailing, which ultimately marked him. Pay attention to the shyness there is in the piano’s performance until 00:40 of “Tabarly” (#1). It expresses an initial hesitation, a doubt, but from 00:40 until 00:50 when the piano becomes a little livelier, the little boy has now started being fascinated by sailing. Eventually, from 00:50 onwards, the piano’s performance becomes spontaneous and more vivid, making, thus, the message of the music perfectly clear. The little boy has been so captivated by the experience of sailing that he abandons himself to it, and fate is expected to seal the course of his life, even if he may not know it yet. When we reach 00:50, the camera that rapidly crosses the Odet river to reach the point where the beautiful sailing boat of the father Tabarly is sailing, along with the enthusiastic performance of the piano, creates a beautiful marriage that sets the basis for the behavior of the music subsequently. At this point, it must be made clear that the tracks “Tabarly” (#1), “Point Ζéro” (#9), and “Point Μort” (#12) are Yann Tiersen’s variations of the song “Fanny de Lanninon”, the music of which is composed by Marceau Verschueren.   

The career of Eric Tabarly in the air force and the navy has the accompaniment of “Naval” (#2). The genuine black-and-white footage of the era and the solo of the tender piano give a sense of nostalgia, melancholy and reminiscence. The piano solo continues in the next track as well, “II” (#3), but very different, since it is now consciously performed in a more decisive manner. The preference of Yann Tiersen for the piano, as also latter the music will show, reveals to us that he considers it as the internal voice of Tabarly. In the aforementioned track, this voice says a resounding “you can do it!”, when Eric Tabarly is planning his new sailing boat Pan Duick III, with which he will compete in future races. The piano here becomes the tenacity of the legendary sailor, who feels more certain than ever about the coming challenges.

The piano is retiring for a while and some of the instruments that are taking its place are the guitar, the marimba, the violin and the cello, among others, in “Au Dessous Du Volcan” (#4). Eric Tabarly spends endless hours on the deck of his sailing boat, under the sun, in conditions of peaceful sea routine. These are the mild moments of sailing and the music expresses this laxity. The pleasant moments of sailing, which are directly depending on the sunny sky, perfectly match with the music that becomes carefree. On June 5 1976, Eric Tabarly sails away from the port of Plymouth with a smile, in order to cross all by himself the Atlantic Ocean, full of optimism about the challenge he undertakes. “La Longue Route” (#6) accompanies his departure and the piano solo returns in a positive and genial mood. The musical imprint is hopeful of the victory, which finally came, but it was proved being really unbelievable! This crossing of the Atlantic was the trickiest thing Eric Tabarly ever ventured: the stormy weather on the ocean resulted in the sinking of five sailing boats and the withdrawal of forty-two participants! That’s why it was an unprecedented triumph! The welcome that he receives from his fellow citizens in Paris, when he returns, is growing into the reception of a national hero. People are taking to the streets and are praising him to the skies, but the music does not adopt the surrounding atmosphere. In “1976” (#7) it does not celebrate in a torrential mood, but on the contrary, it is very reserved. For once more, the music expresses the character of Eric Tabarly, and totally identifies with it, it is humble and modest.

An additional dose of optimism is conveyed by the music in “Yello” (#8), when Eric Tabarly is supervising the construction of his new sailing boat, named “Paul Picard”. It is a new start, positive energy is, thus, necessary. Yann Tiersen makes sure of that, since he has always been an expert in music that sends out positive messages and optimism. The piano solos in the music of the movie have not yet finished. The tracks “La Corde” (#10), “8mm” (#11) and “Derniere” (#13), will give more wonderful moments of this instrument, without a trace of pessimism, sadness or misery. Judging by the course of life of Eric Tabarly, the faith that things will work out well before every new challenge, eventually paid off, and nobody is more suited to highlight this than Yann Tiersen.

So what if he had tamed the oceans countless times, the end of Eric Tabarly was sudden and happened at sea while traveling towards Scotland on June 12 to 13, 1998, when the wind threw him into the sea. His body was found on the shores of Ireland, from where it was recovered, five weeks after his biological death. This tragic news is written in titles at the end of the movie, where the music is literally transformed and sounds like nothing we previously heard. The violins in “EIRE” (#15) become otherworldly and convey a frozen eerie atmosphere. They symbolize the death that the legendary sailor suddenly faced. Once more, the music seems to be getting into Eric Tabarly’s head and translates his thoughts and feelings into notes.

In the closing credits, the piano comes once again to give the musical conclusion in the story of a man who made it a habit of his life to overcome every expectation and achieve the unachievable. The music in the closing credits of a movie is the taste or the perfume that it leaves to us. It summarizes its beating heart. It is the music that is more likely to be noticed by the viewers because it plays by itself, with the white letters passing quickly over the black background and disappearing. In “Atlantique Nord” (#14) lies the essence of the existence of Eric Tabarly, whose voice is heard saying in the documentary: “I think I lived a dream life. I wouldn’t dare dream like this!”. Music for a dream life is, thus, performed by the piano in the aforementioned track. Deep in its simplicity. Captivating in its familiarity. With a characteristic directness permeating it, the music of Yann Tiersen for the documentary “Tabarly” manages to excel in sketching the portrait of the legendary sailor Eric Tabarly. Is it possible to not give in to such a lovable music?

Track List:

01. Tabarly (3:05) *
02. Naval (3:38)
03. II (1:14)
04. Au Dessous Du Volcan (3:33)
05. IV (0:55)
06. La Longue Route (2:14)
07. 1976 (1:12)
08. Yello (2:19)
09. Point Zero (2:38) *
10. La Corde (1:18)
11. 8mm (2:45)
12. Point Mort (3:37) *
13. Derniere (1:32)
14. Atlantique Nord (2:38)
15. EIRE (1:07)

*Variations on the song “Fanny de Lanninon”, composed by Marceau Verschueren.   

Total Time: 33:52

The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters

Score Rating: * * * *