pandora

Pandora’s Box – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 1st November 2012

It may not have the spectacular visual pyrotechnics of a Skyfall and it may not have colour or even have any sound, but what Pandora’s Box does have is most everything else. It has beauty, eroticism, hypocrisy and the use and reckless abuse of power. It has innocence, sexuality in spades, and heralds cinema’s first openly lesbian scene. It has good and it has evil and sees the eventual triumph of one over the other. It has delirium, self-destruction and murder most foul.  And above all it has Louise Brooks, iconic, irrepressible and absolutely inimitable.

Directed by Georg Wilhelm (GW) Pabst, the film Pandora’s Box was first shown in Germany in 1929. This evening, more than 80 years later in Leeds Grand Theatre, it is being projected onto a huge screen just below the barrel-vaulted ceiling of this magnificent building’s Assembly Room with a live score written and performed by the post-classical composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and his fellow Icelander and cellist Hildur Gudnadóttir. They are joined just in front of the cinescreen by Dov Goldberg playing clarinet and Philip Jack on turntables and various electronics, their instruments illuminated by a soft orange glow which quite beautifully offsets the film’s exquisitely restored monochrome print.

Initially the music emerges from the gloom strident and separate from the film’s moving images, but once Brooks’ dazzling beauty hoves into view sound and vision coalesce into one.  And they remain there, as one, for more than two hours as the film’s narrative shifts between scenes and mood. Joy and despair, fear and hatred, anger and deep regret, they are all written into the actors’ faces, their silent emotions captured forever on the screen. The music reflects these feelings and the film’s febrile atmosphere and grand design, never literal always figurative in its expansive imagination, interpretation and execution. During the closing sequence of Pandora’s Box as the Salvation Army band parades through those dense, darkened London streets, you finally understand that the score is something so much more than just music to watch a film by. Whilst they may ultimately exist without each other, the air that Pandora’s Box and this musical accompaniment breathe is one and the perfect same.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.