Ben Oliver
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Take 2: Gladiator
"Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome."

I attended a screening of Gladiator at the Royal Albert Hall, with a live orchestra providing Hans Zimmer’s score. Singer and co-composer Lisa Gerrard was on stage providing her signature vocals.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. At numerous times you get so engrossed in the film that you forget there is a full size orchestra sat 6 feet below it.

Make of that what you will - on the one hand it’s a strange and unique experience, on the other hand you do find yourself wondering how much it is actually adding to the film. It does speak to the talent of the orchestra - they were dead on the beat down to the last frame, absolutely in sync with the film.

Most of the time the live performance delivers more than its fair share of spectacle, especially with a score-driven film like Gladiator. It’s loud, bombastic and often overwhelming.

The concept also provides a laser sharp focus on the mechanics of a film score. You pick up on motifs, themes and patterns as if you’d been studying it for days. Again though, I’m not sure upsetting the delicate balance between sound and vision is always a good idea. When you look too hard at something you start to see the man behind the curtain.

It’s hard to shake the thought that perhaps I would have enjoyed Gladiator more without the orchestra, and perhaps I would have enjoyed the orchestra more without Gladiator.

I’m over-thinking it though. The choice of film was dead on and the performance was as close to technical perfection as you can get. If you get a chance to see something like this and it’s a film with a big, sweeping score I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Ridley Scott, 2000
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Published by Ben Oliver, June 23 2018
© 2018 Ben Oliver