film scores






THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL



Score by Dave Grusin

For a website devoted to the musical career of Dave Grusin, check out

http://www.grusin.net



Story:  An American Actress with a penchant for lying is forcibly recruited by Mosad, the Israeli intelligence agency to trap a Palestinian bomber, by pretending to be the girlfriend of his dead brother



This is genuinely one of the most superior of Dave Grusin's less recognized scores, containing an entirety of original music, and little of it re-used in the film, except in a subliminal way.

What is most extraordinary is that originally, George Roy Hill was working on a concept whereby there would be no traditional underscoring whatsoever, only source music.

Dave Grusin felt that, for a variety of reasons - the entertainment element of music, the added value it would bring dramatically as well as his instincts to enhance particular scenes - the picture called for underscoring.

He put together a program of speculation cues, and in the end, director Hill bought just about all of them.

Although no credits are given at the beginning of "The Little Drummer Girl," and consequently there is no opening music, a theme exists, relating to the emotions of the central character, which is played sparingly in a scene or two, and in full over the end titles as an epilogue to the picture.  Two more compositions hold prominence, a gentle and simple piece reminiscent of a classic French folk song and a spicy one of Middle Eastern flavor, which reproduces indigenous musical instruments to excellent effect.

The main theme exudes serenity, gravity and innocence, qualities which betray the inner character of the actress who, on screen may appear volatile and world-wise, never letting down her guard, except when her life is in jeopardy at the end.  The tender music personifies Charlie's striving for peace and justice in the world, something she manifests in an altogether different manner in her words and deeds.  Thus, an inner depth is revealed, adding dimension to her persona and to the film.

The melody is also used  as a love theme, but really to express Charlie's feelings rather than romance between herself and `Jos.'  More of it might have been most welcome, not only to focus on the inner Charlie, but also to develop the idea that she was working against the Palestinians (whose cause she championed) out of love for an Israeli.

The two-hour film is so complex at points, that all one's attention is required to follow the action, and the lingering doubt as to the reason why she is working for 'the other side' distracts one just enough to lose vital full concentration.  More music when Charlie and `Jos' are together might have clarified her feelings and thus, her behavior.

Among the places where it could have helped to reveal her emotions are: as she reads the note with orchids, when they first meet in Greece (or as soon as they meet there the second time),  when they part at the airport or at the end of the film, when she sees him in the theater (though no music in this last instance might be more understandable after her frightening experiences).

This absence of underscoring is really a matter of directorial philosophy, the leaning towards documentary rather than romance, and considering that there was originally to be none at all, one must be thankful for the reversal on this point, allowing in the rich assortment of compositions.

Dave Grusin has indicated that he used the main theme in its entirety over the closing credits - ending in a sweet, childlike manner - as "a sort of get-well card for Charlie."

Innocence and simplicity are also projected in the second major theme, with additional layers of comfort and well-being.  Safety and security seem to come from a familiar folk quality.  It is used after Charlie has made her decision to work for Mossad.  When she leaves the room, the men discuss how they will play her emotionally.  Their ruthless attitude is emphasized by the cue which concentrates on Charlie's incorruptibility, and signifies an end to her previous safe world.   it also plays towards the conclusion of the film, as Charlie recuperates from her experiences in reflective scenes.

The geographical theme  is, for a start, a most interesting and delicious piece of music.  Although only a small part of the film takes place in the Middle East, it is lightly interwoven into the fabric of other cues in "The Little Drummer Girl," always bringing the audience back to the central mental location of the picture, whether the scene takes place in Greece, Germany or Britain.  

With its complexity, and because it is more geographical than ethnic, this theme is usable to evoke the sense of both sides tugging at the main character.   Full of intrigue, danger, excitement and mystery, this sound is very beckoning and alluring.

Dave Grusin himself can be heard on this piece, playing a GS2 synthesizer to create the unique sound, what he calls a “Lebanese kind of thing,” which is achieved with a number of electronic instruments.

Additionally, there is a wealth of further incidental music, finely orchestrated to heighten tension and terror during dramatic sequences.  Each of these cues is original, with only the feeling or sound linking it to the rest of the score.  The worthwhile effort exerted has resulted in constant freshness - something much needed through this long motion picture.

In terms of placement of music, two opposite effects are used in "The Little Drummer Girl."  On the one hand, the action is almost always allowed to develop, whether it is romance or danger, before underscoring begins to intensify already established feelings. On the other, in many cases, a cue for a scene begins in a previous one, and may even end in the first moments of the next.  

While the amount of music - though rich in character - is on the sparing side for a film of this length, this lack of underscoring adds a realistic feel and a starkness to some scenes, particularly in the first ten minutes.  This striving for a documentary atmosphere has meant scenes at the training camp have ended up without cues; but more of that appealing Middle Eastern theme would have been welcome here.

With so much diversity, the score really merited a soundtrack album, and can be put at the top of the list of Dave Grusin film music which has not been released in this manner but should be.  Fortunately, on the CD version of “Cinemagic” (but not on the LP), both the main theme (under the title “Epilogue”) and the Middle Eastern Theme (“PLO Camp Entrance”) have been so honored.  They are worth the purchase of the album on their own.



Music Editor:  Milton Lustig


Stars:  Diane Keaton, Yorgo Voyagis, Klaus Kinski

Director:  George Roy Hill

Producer:  Robert L. Crawford

Released:  1984


Return to list of films

Contact us!