“First and foremost, we are telling this as a story about average young people. After all, you’re not born a hero.” This is how Andreas Dresen describes his new film, IN LIEBE, EURE HILDE – a remarkable categorization, since his protagonists are certainly not what we would call average. The film focuses on the young resistance fighter Hilde Coppi, who was executed by the Nazis in 1943.
But this narrative style is typical of the 60-year-old director, who explores the full spectrum of human behaviour in his films with great sensitivity and a feel for both tragic and comic nuance. Even if the context of IN LIEBE, EURE HILDE differs from his previous films, which were set in the present or the recent past, he and his screenwriter Laila Stieler remain true to their style. It is not about “heroizing portrayal” or, as Dresen says: “We don’t emphasize history, we show the timeless quality in the protagonists’ youthfulness. Museum-worthy, sepia-toned historicizing gets on my nerves.”
He explains his view of the characters as follows: “I like people and contradictory characters; I feel close to them. Rash judgements are anathema to me. Of course, this is reflected in my stories and the way I view the characters. I try to avoid a direct, simplistic approach.” This also explains why Dresen, who comes from Gera in East Germany, has become one of Germany’s leading directors in recent decades. His numerous awards include the German Film Award for WOLKE 9 (2008), the passionate love story of two 70-year-olds that received the ‘Coup de cœur du jury’ in Cannes and was nominated for a European Film Award in the category Direction, the ‘Prix un certain regard’ for HALT AUF FREIER STRECKE (2011), a drama about a family man suffering from a brain tumour, or the six German Film Awards - including for Best Film and Best Director – for GUNDERMANN (2018), a remarkably nuanced biography of the East German singer-songwriter of the same name.
Dresen is not a filmmaker who attributes such successes to his individual vision alone. As a matter of principle, he refrains from using the phrase “a film by...”: “That sounds like the director is solely responsible, which I don’t like. A film is made as a team, it’s the result of work by a group of people who trust each other and share an artistic and political vision.” In the tragicomedy HALBE TREPPE (2002), which was made without a fixed script and features improvised dialogue, the words “a film by” can be found in the end titles, but they are followed by the names of all those involved. Fittingly, the major exhibition on his work showing at the Filmmuseum Potsdam until 31 December 2024 is subtitled “Andreas Dresen and Team”.
Dresen’s ego-free attitude is also reflected in his aesthetics: “The viewer should be taken on a journey without thinking about how people have worked to get him there. The best thing is when the audience is so absorbed in the story, they don’t realise that a bunch of tricks have been deployed behind the camera.” This approach also characterizes his work as a theatre and opera director. Ironically, Dresen’s production company, which he runs with Andreas Leusink, is named after a visionary lone wolf: Iskremas is the invented name of the main character in the Soviet film SHINE, SHINE, MY STAR (1969), an art-obsessed actor who passes on revolutionary messages to his audience during the turmoil of the Russian Civil War. For Dresen, who received his film training in the GDR, “art is always political, even when it tells private stories.” However, he does not aim to “incite the audience, but to tell moving stories from which people can draw their own conclusions.”
Although Dresen, who was a judge of administrative law in the state of Brandenburg from 2012 to 2023, reflects deeply on the social and political situation, he also has a longing for the fairytale. He made the children’s book adaptation TIMM THALER UND DAS VERKAUFTE LACHEN in 2017. Next, he would like to make the family film AUGUSTE, THE CHRISTMAS GOOSE: “In tough times like these, there is also a desire for stories that take you to a different, fairytale-like world.” He believes the best place for this is definitely the big screen: “I’m not interested in making films to generate click counts or sell advertising. I don’t get on so well with series. I’d rather be a cinema fossil.”