• Leonie Krippendorff © Ruben Donsbach
    The Perspective
    Of Empathy


Leonie Krippendorff © Ruben Donsbach

On her summer holiday in 2017, Leonie Krippendorff had a dark premonition. She was staying at her mother‘s idyllic mountain property in Portugal, but the extreme heat there started to make her feel trapped and so she drove to the coast. A short time later, a fire broke out in the area she had just left, which developed into the largest forest fire in Europe and also devastated her mother‘s property.

This experience of a lost paradise plays a key role for the 36-year-old filmmaker, who needs a “personal connection“ to her material. Consequently, it is a crucial event in one of her current projects, where four young protagonists find “a utopian space of freedom“ in precisely this setting, which is later burnt down.

In her previous feature films LOOPING and COCOON and the ZDF series LOVING HER, Leonie Krippendorff told queer coming-of-age stories about girls and young women and processed a lot of things that she had experienced herself. Now it‘s about the longings of an entire generation. There is a political context as well, because she also reflects on the consequences of climate change in her material.

An ever-increasing confrontation with social reality is also shaping Leonie Krippendorff’s artistic career, and she received the Bavarian Film Award for Best Young Director for COCOON in 2020. From 2009 to 2016, she studied at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, which she experienced as an “absolute sanctuary“ where she could find the “creative voice within“ and „do her thing“ with no worries at all. This enabled her to develop the highly individual, extremely sensitively narrated scenario of her first feature-length film, LOOPING.

But as soon as she left the shelter of the university, she was surprised by the outside world’s response to her films: she had never speculated about certain reactions or set herself the goal of changing people’s perspective on queer subjects. Only after writing COCOON did she realise that this was the first German film about a love between two schoolgirls. The experience was particularly intense with LOOPING, which was launched in 2016 and won awards at the Guadalajara International Film Festival, among others. “I had the feeling that to some extent, the film was put into a lesbian niche and perceived as very anti-male. I‘m sure it would have been received very differently if it had been released after MeToo.“

Now Leonie Krippendorff finds herself in a world that seems to be positively searching for her images and stories: “Many viewers have said to me about COCOON that they wish they’d seen this film when they were 14. Slowly something is changing, women can make films that affect them personally and thus show other perspectives.“ In this context, it is very moving for her when COCOON, which has been screened at over 60 international festivals and won several awards, is shown in countries where same-sex love is discriminated against, for example, “and coming out is always connected with suffering. I think it‘s great when a film like this is interpreted differently all over the world and develops a different relevance.“

In a way, as a narrator, she has now made the step from the private to the public: “I had never thought about how something would be interpreted before, because otherwise I wouldn‘t have been able to do my own thing.“ She is aware that she could be pigeonholed because of her previous subjects, and she would find that a great shame. This is another reason why her Portugal project is important. At the same time, she is developing – for a German-Italian co-production – material about an intersexual child.

“Not every film I make in the years to come will centre on a queer love story, but my films will always have a queer perspective, because that‘s how I see the world.“ But ultimately, she hopes that this “labelling“ will no longer exist in future: “A love film is a love film, whether it‘s a story between two women, two men, a man and a woman, or anyone in between. I hope that my films can help to do away with such labels.“ Because in the final analysis, she believes that storytelling is about one thing: “Empathy is central.“

Rüdiger Sturm