Friday, August 8, 2014

There Will Be Blood...Live! at the Roundhouse, Camden

Last night, the Roundhouse Theatre in Camden hosted the second of two evenings screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic There Will Be Blood to a crowd of thousands.  Although the film itself is a masterpiece, the crowds were primarily there to witness the London Contemporary Orchestra perform Jonny Greenwood’s unforgettable score as a live accompaniment to the picture.  This was a two-night world premiere of an event that is set to travel across the world.

For those who have not seen the film, the narrative follows the ruthless 19th century oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) as he travels around California developing oil drilling sites – most notably in opposition to a local evangelical preacher called Eli (Paul Dano).  The filmmaking is amazingly patient with long dialogue-free scenes that show vast landscapes punctuated with wooden oil wells.  This patience allows the music to creep in and out and underline the tense atmosphere between the townsfolk and the encroaching capitalists.

The evening so happened to coincide with the Roundhouse’s Summer Sessions beach terrace, so before the film began hundreds of people in central London were crammed onto a temporary beach on the terrace of the building, complete with deckchairs, champagne and rosé wine.  This gave the evening a fairly surreal introduction as everyone began to tap the sand out of their shoes before sitting down for the performance…

Then as everyone began to take their seats infront of the empty orchestra seats, the musicians walked out, tuned up and the film just began.  It was a beautiful atmosphere and seemed so natural that it was remarkably easy to get lost in the film and forget that there was a live performance at all.  But for the tenser moments in the narrative, the addition of piercing natural violins and beating drums gave the action a more chilling depth.

Although it is a huge amount of work, I hope that this kind of ‘live’ cinema become more of a fixture on the film calendar as it gives the film an urgent and theatrical quality and reminds you of the importance of watching films with larger audiences.  The power of silence amongst a crowd of thousands of people is heart-stopping, and the collective shock from action onscreen is infinitely heightened when it ripples around an audience.

At the end of the show the orchestra finally gets to show off with Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Major, which incites a much deserved standing ovation from large parts of the crowd.  Deceit, betrayal and murder have never sounded so good…

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