Solitary hero fighting the power of nature or foolhardy chancer? Donald Crowhurst, whose attempt to sail alone around the world ended in tragedy, was both. The story of his sea voyage and the financial mess that drove an amateur sailor to compete in a doomed race for glory has inspired poets, playwrights, and novelists ever since Crowhurst's abandoned boat was found in the summer of 1969. It is now the subject of a new film directed by James Marsh and with a haunting score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. The British director and Icelandic composer were keen to join forces again having first worked together on The Theory of Everything, Marsh's biographical drama based on the life of Stephen Hawking.
The Mercy depicts one man's inner psychological drama being played out on an epic scale, a portrait intensified by Jóhannsson's score. His music complements the different sides of Crowhurst from lovable optimist and English eccentric to troubled fantasist and deluded soul. The soundtrack combines original pieces with works from the composer's catalog including tracks from Orphée, Englabörn, Free the Mind, and Copenhagen Dreams. Matching music to Crowhurst's turbulent psyche proved both challenging and ultimately rewarding. "I am so lucky to be offered projects like The Mercy that allow creative freedom," recalls Jóhannsson. "I try to do something in every soundtrack that I haven't done before; I try to make it into an opportunity to explore fresh avenues. You always learn something new with every film."