'The Little Drummer Girl': How director Park Chan-wook did away with all the '70s cliches

From the bell bottoms to the pleated skirts, Chan-wook's show is authentically 70s and still inclines closely to the spirit of the '60s


                            'The Little Drummer Girl': How director Park Chan-wook did away with all the '70s cliches

As the years between Woodstock and Reagan, the 1970s were the tacky anticlimax that never really inclined towards anything. With the Beatles breaking up, Diana Ross setting out on her solo career, Jimi Hendrix leaving way before his time, and Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' drawing the line between the Flower Powered '60s and the Baby Booming '80s with its depiction of the disillusioned '70s, the decade is either forgotten or depicted with a plethora of cliches. Fortunately, Park Chan Wook's adaptation of John Le Carre's 1983 novel, 'The Little Drummer Girl' has done away with all the cliches. 

The '70s have always been depicted in a dull, damp palette, with characters mostly tuned according to the post-war eras of '50s and '60s. That is exactly what Chan-wook has done away with while setting his characters in the period.

Speaking with AMC, the Korean director mentioned that he deliberately put in a lot of bright colors. Florence Pugh, who plays the young aspiring, actress Charlie, has been seen in vivid, brilliantly designed clothes with some beaming shades such as midnight blue and bumblebee yellow. However, compared to the colors thrust upon Charlie, the characters have a muted tone to themselves, except Becker (played by Alexander Skarsgard) who can be seen brightly clothed only when his scenes appear along with Charlie. 

Becker is brightly clothed only in his scenes with Charlie. (IMDb)
Becker is brightly clothed only in his scenes with Charlie. (IMDb)

Probably, the bright colors are a depiction of youth, however, Chan-wook looks at it as a way of escaping the "desaturated look" of the '70s. Chan-wook said, "I wanted just to go with a livelier look, more vivid."

As the director hinted, there are multiple overlapping of periodic mediums such as a strong inclination towards the spirit of the Flower Power Movement with Charlie's youthful enthusiasm and blatant hatred towards war, and the revolutionary period which ultimately led to the depressing nonchalance of the Baby Boomers. "You don’t see many films that take place in the late 1970s particularly." Chan-wook, rightly, said. "In terms of thinking about how it would look, what kind of energy we wanted to bring to it, I deliberately wanted to avoid the hippie look."

Chan-wook was pretty clear about avoiding the hippie look. (IMDb)
Chan-wook was pretty clear about avoiding the hippie look. (IMDb)

Most movies which utilize the '70s as a backdrop tend to incline towards the preceding decade's brand which went down in history for its long hair, dope-smoking, and folk music. However, Chan-wook's BBC One directed show does not include any of this. Probably due to the storyline, it has brought out the most intimate struggle that enveloped the '70s — the war between Israel and Palestine which still continues to date. It can be assumed that in order to maintain the contemporary tone of the war which has stretched across the millennium, Chan-wook has concentrated chiefly on the characters rather than their style which often forms the base for any movie based in the '70s.

Chan-wook concentrated on how his characters should be rather then what they should wear. (IMDb)
Chan-wook concentrated on how his characters should be rather then what they should wear. (IMDb)

However, other than doing away with the '70s tacky style and the cliched look of the '60s — which were only dragged to the era due to its own lack of style — 'The Little Drummer Girl' still holds on to some of the most iconic things that have defined the '70s.

The 1970 Plymouth Barracuda is almost a character in the show as it keeps passing from one hand to the other maintaining its own role of carrying ammunition and witness murder, bomb blast, betrayal, and love. Although not the authentic one, if looked closer, Charlie's bright yellow dress which has already become pretty popular among fans, inclines towards Diane von Furstenberg's iconic wrap dress. 

So far 'The Little Drummer Girl' has managed to do away with all the cliches that could have been attached to it, and the show's sheer rawness continues to retain its charm. The Park Chan-wook directed show returns to BBC on Sunday at 9 p.m.