out of Five
Running time: 82
An engaging documentary with likeable subjects and an intriguing theme, though it gets a little repetitive and you're eventually left wanting to know more about the singers than the song.
What's it all about?
Directed by Stefan Schwietert, Echoes of Home (or Heimatklange, original title fans) centres on three different Swiss musicians and their modern-day variations on the traditional yodelling style. They include: 47-year-old Christian Zehnder, who developed a passion for yodelling after it helped him recover from a serious illness; Swiss-American performance artist Erika Stucky, who incorporates yodelling into her act and produces a fascinating hybrid of both cultures; and Noldi Alder, a former child singer who's anchored in tradition, but still trying to push the boundaries.
The film also explores the history of yodelling and its connection to the striking landscape. In addition, we learn about each musician's personal connection to yodelling and see their various performances, with Zehnder travelling to Mongolia to practice a distinctive, growling overtone with the world-famous overtone singers of Huun Huur Tu.
Stucky and Zehnder are both intriguing characters and it's interesting to contrast their very different approaches to their art (though you sense Stucky's act would definitely be more fun to watch). There are also several amusing scenes (such as Stucky's film-based double-act with partner Sina, in which the pair are carried off by mythical creatures) and an almost disturbingly intimate sequence in which Zehnder tutors a student and yodelling is used as part craft, part primal scream-style therapy.
The film's biggest problem is that after a while you get tired of the yodelling and long for more details of the lives of both Zehnder and Stucky; the film only gives you the personal details that involve their connection with music.
If you're a fan of yodelling, you can probably go ahead and add an extra star to Echoes of Home. However, it's fair to say that a little yodelling goes a long way and that the film eventually wears out its welcome, much like someone yodelling in your living room for 90 minutes.