To mark the three-decade anniversary of its arrival on UK shores, this year’s EIFF arranged a special screening of the film, made all the more exclusive by its score being performed live by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the music for a movie about time travel being performed by a musical ensemble as timeless as an orchestra seeming rather appropriate. Shown in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, the 1,900 capacity hall sold out in a matter of hours, and would have done so even faster had the venue website not keep crashing under the strain of so many people trying to access it.
Before the film even begun the orchestra got everyone fired up with a stirring rendition of the iconic theme, after which some people could have immediately left and probably still gone away satisfied. The score’s original composer Alan Silvestri had crafted an additional twenty minutes of music especially for the screening, the augmentations further accentuating the film’s dramatic and emotional scenes, eliciting even greater reactions from people than if they were simply watching it in a cinema.
Like pretty much everyone alive, the entire audience had seen the film multiple times – many people could likely recite it from memory – and everyone was laughing at all the right moments during jokes that never seem to wear even after being heard a dozen times, passion and nostalgia playing equal parts in their engrossment in the joyful experience playing out before them. Most notably, a rousing cheer erupted at the moment George decks Biff.
The zeal also extended to the musicians of the 80-piece orchestra, many of them sitting with broad smiles on their faces as they played memorable cues, and in the film’s opening skateboarding sequence the timpani player was clearly itching to drum along with The Power of Love.
There’s something mesmerising about the appeal of live music. Whereas at the end of standard films most people are content to leave the moment the credits start to roll, even when the screen shot to black after the flying DeLorean soared towards the audience’s eyeballs, not a single person even considered moving until the orchestra had ended its final notes, at which point they were met with thunderous applause.
If the reaction to this screening of Back to the Future proves to be positive enough, then similar events will be organised in the months to come, seeing films throughout the history of cinema given the live musical treatment, meaning an endless set of possibilities for well-worn roads to be travelled in new and exciting ways. Besides, where we’re going, we don’t need roads.