TV

Soundtrack review: Deutschland 83 (Reinhold Heil – 2015)

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“Deutschland 83” is an eight-episode German television series starring Jonas Nay as a 24-year-old native of East Germany who in 1983 is sent to the West as an undercover spy for the Stasi. Hiding in plain sight in the West German army, he must gather the secrets of NATO military strategy. Everything is new, nothing is quite what it seems and everyone he encounters is harboring secrets, both political and personal. This is quite a flourishing period for TV shows set in the cold war as we also have the brilliant “The Americans”. Reinhold Heil wrote the score for “Deutschland 83” and I always connect very well with his music.

A score for a story set in a very specific period in time needs the stamp of that period. I know it’s a lot to expect but Germany…1983…can I have an all synth score? Too much to ask? Then maybe just some sweet synth darkness? Of course I can… “Office spying” brings me closer to the sound I cherish. The score moves rapidly with sharp beats and simple rhythms. There is no trace of an orchestral sound in this one and I’m fine with it. A spy story set in the cold war needs to be suspenseful and stealthy. The percussion pulses feed the suspense and the atmosphere of this score is very clearly set.

Unfortunately for my listening experience this is all the score has going for it: a dense and tense atmosphere. I can imagine how great this works in the context of the TV show and how meaningful the cues will become once the on screen images will complete them. For the standalone listen though I need a bit more. There are moments when I get excited, moments when the pace of the score gets livelier and I can feel the suspense on my skin but they aren’t very many.

Surprises like the moody atmospheric “Putting Honecker on the spot” are my favorite moments of “Deutschland 83”. I feel this score as if it was a flashlight that I keep trying to get to work. It lights up for some seconds and I can see what’s around me but then it shuts back down and I am left in the dark trying to get it back on again. Then I get moments like the string motif in “Scrape you off the floor” and I wish it was more developed.

I don’t always like to use this word to describe music but “textural” is a very good fit for this score. It’s not the best kind of music to listen to without the support of the images but I’m sure everyone will find something to like. The persistence of the sound paid off in the end as the score slowly grew on me in its second more interesting half.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 68

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:

Office Spying

Renate Watered

Putting Honecker On The Spot

Forbidden Books

What’s With Your Secretary?

Scrape You Off The Floor

Chasing Linda

Vagabond

Endings

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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