Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

Composer Reinhold Heil gives Cold War-era tension a modern twist in 'Deutschland 83'

Ways to Subscribe

The series hits close to home for Heil, who now works in Los Angeles. Back in the 1980s, he was a young man living in West Berlin.

NOTE: Listen to this interview to hear samples of Reinhold's score.

As the title suggests, the Sundance Channel’s critically acclaimed spy series, “Deutschland 83," takes place in 1983, near the border between communist East Germany and the democratic West.

At the time, tensions between the two nations were running particularly high as the arms race escalated.

At the center of the story is Martin Rauch, a 24-year-old East German border patrol agent who is sent undercover to spy on the West. As you can imagine, there are a lot of tense moments as the inexperienced and naive agent pursues his mission behind enemy lines.

The man behind the equally tense score for the show is composer Reinhold Heil.

The series hits close to home for Heil, who now lives and works in Los Angeles. Back in the 1980s, though, he was a young man living in West Berlin. 

"There was a lot going on, there were terrorist activities, there was nuclear armament and mid-range missiles on both sides of the Iron Curtain," said Heil on The Frame. "I think a growing percentage of the population felt pretty threatened and expressed it. There was a huge peace movement going on. Stuff that's pretty unimaginable right now ... millions of people out in the street demonstrating."

Interview Highlights:

When this show came along, as a composer, somebody who was there at the time, what was your reaction to the material?

So this happened to you?
This is a show set in 1983 and a lot of songs are used that are contemporary to that day, [but] the score is a more modern, electronic sound. Tell us what you thought the sound design of the score should sound like.
The song "99 Luftballoons" by Nena shows up a few times in the show. You have a very personal connection to that song.
Do you play on it? 
You are a classically trained musician, but you use a wide array of digital instruments. In the track "Burial," it sounds like you're using a real cello.
This is the first German language series on an American cable channel and it's been incredibly well-reviewed. What does its success say about German TV coming to the United States?
Stay Connected