King of the Cruise

Thomas Goralski

" it is that twist of irony that makes me enjoy it more that I normally would. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the download only release

King of the Cruise is a Dutch 2019 documentary directed by Sophie Dros and featuring a score by Thomas Goralski. The title refers to the wealthy Ronald Busch Reisinger, who is common seen guest aboard cruise ships. Onboard he serves the role of a self-proclaimed Scottish Baron of age, and as a pathological liar, converges with other passengers, telling them the wildest stories. The documentary does not comment on the person, solely registering his façade, slowly revealing a sad portrait of a person in need for attention and recognition.

Thomas Goralski is composer residing in Switzerland. He formerly attended the Dutch film academy and has ever since written numerous of scores for shorts and documentaries from the Netherlands, including several inspiring scores to the full length documentary Genderbende and the short length documentary Rubber Romance and My Silicone Love.

King of the Cruise offers musically cliched pieces, though pastiche is more accurate, and a very endearing sentiment; the right kind of approach for the subject. In a sense, the music is somehow expected to address the flamboyant personality of the Baron, the general feeling onboard a cruise ship, while underlining the inner self of the Baron, a person who is in fact at large a lonely individual, in desperate need for attention and recognition. Goralski does underpin all of this and the result is an enjoyable, ironic and contradicting score that is very serviceable to the documentary.

In the Intro cue, as the sound waves of ocean emerge, a rhythmic figure is overlaid by an exuberant melody for strings, assisted by guitar and even a rolling harp, which alludes to the luxurious feeling aboard a cruise ship, the filling the void feel of the passengers and to the protagonist. A musical box idea of the string melody can be heard towards the end, reoccurring in a solo cue, not present on the music release. While I do not wholeheartedly agree, some have said it is reminiscence of the music of the television series The Love Boat, but it was in fact inspired by Henry Mancini. Goralski himself found particular inspiration in the Mancini´famous Lujon piece. Goralsk´i main melody from the Intro is re-reprised in Arena, ending on a set of playful plucking of snares,

Beyond the façade of the Baron, the piano, intimate electronic ambience and a music box idea, amongst things, largely contribute to craft a rather sad portrait of the Baron, very slowly and with an accent on hesitation in all performances. These pieces, Stroke, Wife and Mother are genuinely heartfelt. Stroke, the longest cue, is a truly memorable piece in which two different sets of notes are constantly repeated with small electronic ambience on the background. The idea of these repeated notes becomes a wonderful dramatic tool throughout the documentary, of which some are missing on the release. In the midst of the Stroke cue the Baron, who was just treated in the ship’s hospital, orders an unhealthy menu. Moments like these provide for mixed feelings. Additionally, the music box idea is evoking an almost fairy tale feeling that makes the viewer even want to believe everything the Baron says on camera, even though the viewer is perfectly aware of the façade. From a distance, these pieces remind me of the memorable finale piece of Sylvain Chomet´s L'Illusionniste, partially similar in instrumentation and emotions, knowingly they are also different.

Both the intimate state of mind and the exuberant feelings come together in a fitting closure in Ending, including the lush strings, rolling harp, introvert piano, plucking of snares and the music box while introducing a lovely female choral. There are also the two Feels Like Paradise songs, both are beautifully sung by Allegra Zumsteg, and they evoke a sense of sentimental irony.

King of the Cruise is fine music, marking the composer´first score release. While unvaried, it is attractively executed and it is that twist of irony that makes me enjoy it more that I normally would, while it also helps that its short length sustains your attention fully and the dramatic cues are simply exquisite. However, in context of the documentary the music does work better.

Thomas Goralski was kind enough to offer his personal insights:

´´Sophie Dros, the director, involved me very early on in the creative process and the film edit, as she had done with her previous movies too.

Sophie had the idea to have a sort of theme song throughout the movie. Therefore, the first thing I did was to come up with the song idea with the help of my fiancée Allegra Zumsteg, who wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals to “Feels like paradise”. She had also previously recorded vocals for other of Sophie’s movies like “Genderblend (Genderbende)” and “My Silicone Love”.

Basically, all other musical material was then derived from that initial song idea.
The music throughout the soundtrack therefore is very mono thematic. Which on one hand can be heard in the very cheesy, big, orchestral pieces of the soundtrack (Intro, Arena, Feels like paradise) but on the other hand also in the sad, more vulnerable, subdued moments (mother, stroke, wife). In the concluding track Ending I tried to make both of these contrasting elements come together.

I like how in some of the scenes, the images in the movie are exaggerated by very contrasting music. For example when the music sounds very lush, classy and relaxed, giving off this fancy idea of a cruise while you see a rather depressing, crowded, seemingly endless boat wall passing through the screen.

It's definitely not far-fetched to assume I went for the Love Boat vibes. When I listen to instrumental versions of the theme I think there is even a clear resemblance to Mancini stuff. The album I mostly listened to was "Mr. Lucky goes Latin" - great album! I also took some inspiration from "Sinatra/Jobim" stuff for the song.

There was actually only a single temp track in the whole process and that was "Lujon" by Mancini for the intro. I had suggested that myself and it was only there for the first version of the scene. At that point the song was already written and ready to be adapted for the intro, so I did that right away. All successive versions used my music. What basically stays from "Lujon" is the relaxed mood and the colour of the strings because they are arranged with the same very Mancini-like technique.

Most of the music was composed not after but during the edit. So, they only had to use temp-music in the very beginning and all the bigger musical sequences could already be edited with at least a preliminary version of my original music.

In general, I almost never have to deal with temp tracks in Sophies films. It often means more work and pressure to come up with stuff quickly, but it's certainly more fun and more fulfilling!

Not all the music that I composed ended up on the soundtrack we just released as I wanted to make sure it didn’t get too redundant. Also missing on the soundtrack is some of the diegetic background music, that most people probably didn’t even notice, while watching the movie, but that I composed for example for the party scene because other music would have been too expensive for copyright reasons.

Since I live in Zurich, Switzerland all contact I had with the film crew before the very final mix of the music, when I spent two days in Amsterdam, was only via phone and internet. But I really enjoy working with the director Sophie Dros and Editor Erik ten Brinke because It is really easy to work towards a common vision, so the distance was never a problem. The sound designer Gijs den Hartogh did a great job of mixing everything for cinema and to achieve a very nice blend of sound design and music. The Sound design is very vivid yet always leaves enough space for the music to shine.

All the music was recorded and produced in Zurich, Switzerland. As I was on a low budget I ended up recording only 4 string-players that played the different voices several times and then layered everything on top of each other. I did the same with the choral parts, Allegra just sang a lot of different versions. The guitarist Nico Maas recorded some very nice guitar variations for me to work with, using different instruments like ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, which really helps to bring the music alive. The harp is digital. I "performed" it on the keyboard though. For real are drums, percussion, marimba, vocals, strings, organs, all sorts of guitars, double bass, piano in parts.´´

1. Intro (2:50)
2. Wife (2:04)
3. Arena (1:42)
4. Stroke (6:08)
5. Feels Like Paradise (A Cappella) (2:02)
6. Mother (2:06)
7. Ending (3:52)
8. Feels Like Paradise (4:24)

Total duration: 25:03


(click to rate this score)  
(total of 3 votes - average 4.33/5)

Released by

Art of Song (download only release 2020)