'The Little Drummer Girl' blurs the line between what is real and what isn't
Director Park Chan-wook has retained the non-declarative tone from the source material in the narrative which has helped in adding to the suspenseful nature of the show
'The Little Drummer Girl', starring Florence Pugh (as Charlie), Alexander Skarsgard (as Becker), and Michael Shannon (as Marty Kurtz), has been dividing audience due to its dubious nature of shifting between a spy espionage and a coming-of-age love story.
Even while reviewing John Le Carre's 1983 titular novel, William F. Buckley writes in his article for the New York Times, there are times when the book demands the reader's entire attention because, "Sometimes, Mr le Carré is drawn, annoyingly, to the nondeclarative narrative".
In BBC One's adaptation of the novel, director Park Chan-wook has maintained the similar non-declarative tone in the narrative which has helped in adding to the suspenseful nature of the show.
As executive producer Stephen Cornwell has pointed out, each episode in the show has its own characteristic which helps the story to drift between counterterrorism and a love story.
Speaking with TV Insider, he said, "As those things become interwoven along the journey, it raises life’s big questions: Who am I? What defines me? What’s imagined and what’s real?"
The show's aptness in retaining the novel's dubious take on realism and imagination has blurred the lines between what truly exists and what is only happening in a person's head.
Chan-wook has managed to show these differences with subtle implications, such as a voice over or a close up on a character's face.
There are scenes where the audience was left wondering if they actually happened — such as Charli and Salim spending the night together while Becker's voice is heard narrating the whole incident in the background. The line between reality and imagination has in fact been blurred to such an extent that the romantic tension between Becker and Charlie is also a matter of confusion.
There are times when the two share intimate moments, but for the most part, Becker has managed to keep Charlie at an arm's distance — coming close to her only when the script required him to do so.
Alexander Skarsgard points out, "We blur the line [in the relationship] between what’s real and what’s not. Charlie obviously knows this is fiction and that Becker is just taking her through the steps. But within that fake connection, there are moments where she can tell it’s actually real…or is it?" As for Charlie, she has herself not been entirely honest about her identity, although it was only a matter of time before Becker narrated her entire truth to her. Although Charlie knew that things were pretty vague with Becker, she accompanied him to Athens for the only reason, as Florence Pugh points out, "Charlie’s one of those people who are desperate for intrigue."
'The Little Drummer Girl' airs on Sundays at 9 pm on BBC One.