FAAN SE TREIN – Nik Sakellarides

Original Review by Alan RogersFaan Se Trein

In Faan se Trein (Faan’s Train), Wille Esterhuizen plays Faan, a burly simpleton with a love of trains. He is the focus of differing opinions with the townsfolk of a close-knit community in the Karoo region of South Africa where Faan lives. His simple-mindedness and his child-like episodes of anger coupled with his strength splits the townsfolk: some feel threatened by this combination and want him institutionalised whereas others think him harmless. Everything is brought to a head when Faan’s father (and the “responsible adult” in his son’s life) dies. The situation is made more complex when some of the townsfolk realise the value of Faan’s inheritance and manipulate the Faan’s child-like innocent for their own financial gain. Based upon a successful 1975 play penned by South African playwright, Pieter Fourie, the film (directed by Koos Roets) has been receiving positive reviews from critics. Veteran South African-born composer Nik Sakellarides (he has been composing for film and TV in his native South Africa for over 25 years) has written a low-key score for the film, based around solo strings and piano that provides a strong level of nostalgia (the film is set in the 1950s). It’s very melancholic in tone, seemingly focusing on the underlying emotional turmoil within the community centred around the main characters.

For the film, Sakellarides moves between intact statements (e.g., “Main Titles”, “You Lied To Me”, “Aggression” and “Faan se Trein”) and fragments (e.g., “Vulnerable”) of the central theme. This means that this theme is ever-present but it doesn’t feel repetitive. The score ventures into dark places via the use of strong low-register strings (“Oom Frik’s Prayer”), and monotonous percussion passages (“Aggression”). “The Seduction” suggests, perhaps, a lightening of the music’s tone but even here there’s only darkness: a combination of unnerving percussion and bone-shaking rumbles of very low strings quashes completely any hope of romance. It’s not until the latter stages of the score, with the use of triangle, piano and pizzicato strings highlighting the child-like mischievous nature of Faan (“Faan Sneaks Away”), and the celebratory “I Hear My Train” – where the composer fills the soundscape with swelling strings and bold brass elements – that the score approaches any sense of optimism or celebration. The score is then rounded off with a summary of the main score elements centred around the main theme (“Faan se Trein”).

Faan se Trein works well as an album, even though the score is particularly sombre in nature. The main theme and how it is varied by the composer within the score makes it an interesting score to hear and this is benefited from the album’s relatively short running time (30 minutes). There are numerous short cues (~1 minute) which would normally detract from the quality of the listening experience. However, because the score’s tone tends to remain firmly anchored in a state of melancholy and nostalgia, this is not an issue as the short cues blend into a suite of ideas rather than becoming a cascade of tracks of varying style. Although Sakellarides’ score is not particularly “bright”, there’s much to recommend it: a good central theme played with a good amount of variety throughout the score, and the emotional “pay off” with the positive resolution of the score. I hadn’t heard of Nik Sakellarides until Faan se Trein but my interest in this composer has now been piqued upon hearing this engaging score. Faan Se Trein is available for purchase as a digital download HERE.

Rating: **½

  1. Main Titles (1:33)
  2. Al Lê Die Berge Nog so Blou (Traditional) (1:16)
  3. Secret Addiction (1:20)
  4. Vulnerable (1:23)
  5. Oom Frik’s Prayer (2:09)
  6. Truia’s Promise (0:46)
  7. The Bulldozers (7:05)
  8. The Seduction (1:16)
  9. Aggression (5:04)
  10. I Know Your Secret (0:43)
  11. Goodbye (0:49)
  12. You Lied To Me (0:54)
  13. Faan Sneaks Away (1:29)
  14. I Hear My Train (1:18)
  15. Faan Se Trein (3:05)

Running Time: 30:18

Nik Sakellarides (2014)


  1. […] 2013. Many, many thanks! The reviews that were visited most were Fuga (Arturo Díez Boscovich), Faan se Trein (Nik Sakellarides), Que d’Amour (Philippe Jakko), Farfars Fabrik (Eric Väpnargård) and […]

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