Northern Ireland

George Best: Musicians score film for performance on 10th anniversary of footballer's death

George Best shows off his 1968 European footballer of the year award in the company of Bobby Charlton, Matt Busby and Denis Law Image copyright PA
Image caption George Best shows off his 1968 European footballer of the year award in the company of Bobby Charlton, Matt Busby and Denis Law

It's 10 years since the death of the Northern Ireland soccer legend George Best, and to mark the anniversary there will be a special performance in Carlow on Wednesday night when musicians will accompany a German film from 1971 in which eight film cameras follow his every move on the pitch.

You have to imagine the scene.

You are in the crowd at Old Trafford and Manchester United are about to play Coventry City.

On to the pitch walks George Best and his team-mates - but you only have eyes for George with his beard and shoulder-length hair; you follow his every movement, and only his.

That's what the German film director, Helmmuth Costard did in his film over 40 years ago with his eight 16mm film cameras.

Matthew Nolan, a lecturer in film studies in Dublin, who first saw Costard's work ten years ago says he was awe-struck by what he witnessed.

"It was an amazing stylistic approach," he said.

"This notion that you could track a player in mid-shot or even close-up for the entirety of the football match was astonishing to me.

"And I've been thinking about the film from a pseudo-creative and musical perspective for nigh on a decade now."

Image caption Matthew Nolan and five others have been rehearsing for the performance in Carlow

So, Matthew decided the film needed a musical score to be played live for its audience; in many ways a throw-back to the days of the silent movies.

And over the last two days Matthew, who is also a guitarist, and five other have been rehearsing for the performance in Carlow.

Among the performers, on cello, is Ernst Reijseger, the Dutch maestro who has written music for the movies of German director, Werner Herzog.

During the rehearsals, he jokes that the five musicians are a democratic collective.

This is because the cameras' focus is only on George Best. You don't get a sense of the match, only of him as he walks runs, dribbles and shoots.

Image caption Best in his pomp in the 1960s. He scored 179 goals for Manchester United during his career
Image copyright PA
Image caption Best was nicknamed el Beatle after a starring role against Benfica in 1966

The musicians, like Ernst, give their impressionistic take on what he might be thinking.

"What do we as musicians have in common with a football player?" he asks, and then answers: "Actually quite a lot.

"You have to be alert. You have to support your team mates in order to perform well.

"It's not a solo show. You see in the film what George Best is doing. He is aware, alert and very much alive within the game and you feel that."

The Costard movie long pre-dates a similar film about the Real Madrid star, Zinedine Zidane, in 2006.

For the record, Manchester United won 2-0 and George scored one goal and assisted Bobby Charlton with the other.

Mathew Nolan says the project has the blessing of the Best family and he hopes to bring the movie and musicians to Belfast in the not too distant future.

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