The first 15 minutes of Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic There Will Be Blood contains no dialogue whatsoever; in the showing at Bristol's Colston Hall, however, 50 musicians and a conductor sat below the screen. In a film in which the silences and empty spaces hold so much meaning, a full live orchestra accompaniment has quite the task of moving along with the flawless performance of Daniel Day Lewis. Yet within the opening scenes the sparse violin strings and unnerving drum ticks fitted perfectly with the thirst for wealth and dominance. Rather than competing with the image, the orchestra only complemented.
As soon as the film starts you have already forgotten the orchestra sits outside of the film - it even becomes hard to believe it existed prior without them. Throughout the narrative the atmosphere walks a tight line between the unnerving to the alarming, and yet the accompanying orchestra never finds itself in the way. In an industrial and scant landscape, greed becomes the only object of worth. Whether it be the explosion of an oil rig followed by a rupture of drums, or screeching strings playing along with moments of drastic violence, the orchestra lived within the film, never trying to break out but exploring the depth that already exists there.
Conductor Hugh Grant led the London Contemporary Orchestra to assist and explore the themes and spaces which Paul Thomas Anderson so elegantly and brutally presents though jarring and mesmerising performances, and scarce environments. As the final credits rolled the audiences eyes finally returned below the screen to the 50 piece band which had so quietly and effortlessly made the whole film feel fresh and yet familiar again.
Words: Jacob Roy