February 27th, 2008
Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood. Tense, massed and corrosive, in constant nervy tremolo, at times loping in Bartoky pizzicato. It’s what few scores are today: a fully-developed character, without which the movie simply wouldn’t be what it is. An integral voice as important as setting, protagonists, pacing, plot.
From the start, with that slow pan from hill to quarry, it shivers the screen in trumpeting discord. The tone for the entire movie’s set — acid green and always on the cusp of exploding into violence, unresolved & shaking, sonically begging for resolution. Which Daniel Plainview brings with bowling pin in the final frames.
Can you imagine the film without the score? I can’t. And with modern film I almost always can — most scores are superfluous at best, at worst pandering to some misguided notion of a film audience dependent on treacly cues in the form of piano arpeggi or string crescendo to decide how to feel.
Here, Greenwood’s score is about the only thing — aside from Paul Dano in a few scenes, and Dillon Freasier, the child who plays H.W. — that consistently stands up to Daniel Day-Lewis’ obsessed, possessed presence for sheer force & focused savagery. For every shot of oil-masked Day-Lewis staring at a burning derrick, wild-eyed with halfgrinning greed, face pooling out of black like some mug out of a Caravaggio canvas, there’s an equal passage where Greenwood’s score howls out of silence with just as much awful glee.
Whether or not Greenwood composed the music specifically for the film is immaterial to me (He was denied an Oscar nomination because parts of the score come from his pre-existing piece “Popcorn Superhet Receiver”). What matters is that it colludes with and bears up the film as much as do its leads, and helps deliver it home as the mesmerizing, ugly, monomaniacal life study it is.
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2008
Jonny Greenwood – There Will Be Blood