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There Will Be Blood: Live – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Composer: Jonny Greenwood

Conductor: Hugh Brunt

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Reviewer:  George Attwell Gerhards

One notable thing about There Will Be Blood is Jonny Greenwood’s haunting soundtrack, an assault of tense and uneasy strings that sets your teeth on edge right from the first few shots. It perfectly captures the mood of Paul Thomas Anderson’s bleak sparse exploration of the turn-of-the-century oil business and the darkness of man’s soul. So it’s excellent news that, ten years on, the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) have brought this modern masterpiece back to the big screen in a fresh and inventive way.

There Will Be Blood is an expansive American epic, charting thirty years in the life of oil prospector Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), his son H.W (Dillon Freasier) and his rivalry with local pastor Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). It’s an all-encompassing affair, taking in its stride issues such as religion, the family, industrial competition and ecology. It’s smart, complex, nuanced and surprising. It also boasts some of the finest screen performances of this century; Day-Lewis won his second Oscar for this, and Paul Dano kick-started his career with a stellar supporting turn. That’s not to mention the cinematography. This is a beautifully photographed film, and it more than deserves another outing on the big screen in order to be witnessed in all its glory.

However, does the live accompaniment of the orchestra on-stage really add anything? Possibly not. The LCO plays wonderfully and of course, there is a richness to the sound from hearing it live, but for all the positives of hearing the orchestra play, there are moments when one might prefer watching the film with the original sound mixing, avoiding having to strain to hear Anderson’s dialogue. It’s a cool spectacle, particularly when Greenwood’s score rises to the occasion and matches the on-screen action in times of tension – but these moments are just too few and far between.

If this trend of live accompaniments of films is here to stay – and a diverse programme of such events at the Royal Albert Hall suggests it might be – then it might as well be films such as There Will Be Blood, a film that boasts one of the most interesting and remarkable soundtracks of recent years, as well as being one of the most thoughtful and compelling portraits of the human ambition to conquer and destroy everything and everyone around you.

All in all, a fantastic opportunity to revisit a modern classic on the big screen, with the added intrigue of having the terrifying soundtrack played in front of you.

Reviewed on 5 February 2017 and on tour| Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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