To celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Colston Hall put on a unique screening of the horror classic with a twist – an orchestral accompaniment playing Bernard Herrman’s infamous score along with the film.
As a huge horror, Hitchcock and Herrman fan, it was an event I had to attend! Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed the Tipett Quartet’s performance of a selection of Herrman’s film scores at Colston Hall in 2011, I was pretty excited.
I won’t spend my word count explaining the plot – I assume you know enough about the Bates Motel and Norman Bates’ unhealthy relationship with his mother already, whether you’ve seen the film or not. At the bare minimum I assume you’ve seen the shower scene, or at least spin offs of it, before.
The screenplay and the music in Psycho are so inextricably reliant on one another, that to see the music live, and the film as it was intended on the big screen, really attracted me to this event. The music augments Hitchcock’s direction so perfectly, making Psycho (to my mind anyway) in every way deserving of its classic status.
I genuinely enjoyed the performance, and the atmosphere before the start was suitably full of anticipation. Just the sight of the gathered strings prepared you for tension. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the film on the big screen, despite having seen it many, many times before.
Conductor Anthony Gabriele and the British Sinfonietta were note perfect, beautifully timed, and played the score exactly as Herrman intended it. Watching the schizophrenic tension of the jerky violin bows was a beautifully jarring spectacle.
I also spoke to a couple of people who attended having never seen the film before and who had been drawn in by the uniqueness of the event. What a way to watch it for the first time – I was quite envious.
Although both the film and the music were hugely enjoyable, I couldn’t help but feel the talented orchestra were a little overlooked. It felt in parts like the film and the music were vying for attention. Although the orchestra were faultless in their performance, they were in a way cheated by technology.
It is very difficult to concentrate on the two things separately – and in a way, you shouldn’t, as it is the screenplay and score working in unison that make the film brilliant. I am in fact listening to the soundtrack as I type this (yes, if anyone walks in now I may look a little strange, tapping away to Psycho, but hey, we all go a little mad sometimes), and the music alone is worthy of attention.
However, with surround sound in modern cinema complexes so good, it was easy to forget there was an orchestra playing at all – the reason being that they played so well.
In one way, it was a greatly unique experience, and made me appreciate the film and the score afresh. It also obviously led people who hadn’t seen it before come out and get to view it as it was intended, on the big screen, with great importance placed on the wonderful score. However, in another way, one took a little away from the other.
The music was so brilliantly performed, I would have been happy to watch the orchestra without the film, and would have been pleased to give them a little more of the attention they deserved.
The event was a fun way to appreciate what is still, despite having been copied innumerable times and despite scenes now so familiar, a brilliant, unique and both cinematically and musically perfect piece of cinema.
A genuinely unique and enjoyable experience.