The title of German director Leonie Krippendorff’s film, Cocoon, is both a literal reference to the exotic caterpillars her young protagonist lovingly breeds and a metaphorical nod to that same girl’s own coming-of-age.
Set in the gritty but thrilling urban cultural melting pot of Berlin over the course of one memorable, sweltering summer, the story follows the quiet, thoughtful Nora as she seeks to navigate a world of new experiences and challenges.
Her older sister Jule and her best friend Aylin aren’t quite reliable as protectors but rather grudgingly let her tag along on their own adventures into house parties, drinking games, dabbles in drugs and desperate attempts to stay thin and fit in both online and offline.
One day, older student Romy comes to the protagonist’s aide when her first period embarrassingly catches her by surprise at school and Nora’s own feelings are awakened. It’s the beginning of a journey of identity self-discovery.
Creating a visceral immersive experience in the sensations of being a young teen in Germany’s capital, Krippendorff’s film recalls the ultra realism of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats while also bringing her own poetic and imaginative lilt.
Through a spellbinding performance from Lena Urzendowsky as Nora we are able to share in her character’s rollercoaster of emotions, from the thrill of first love to devastation of first heartbreak, and both the excitement and terror of the unknown. We also feel the weight of the unforgiving societal pressures placed on young women such as the protagonist, threatening her at every turn.
The supporting cast of women – from Lena Henke (who you might recognise from Netflix’s brilliant How to Sell Drugs Online) as Jule, Jella Haase as Romy to Elina Vildanova as Aylin – complete this beautifully-crafted film that authentically captures the female experience.
We had a chat with filmmaker Leonie Krippendorff about her inspiration for the story, the importance of the locations in the film and the fantastic array of women she cast. We also spoke about the importance of representing women’s and LGBTQI+ experiences more accurately on screen, the stubborn taboos in cinema – such as showing period blood – and what she hopes people will take away from Cocoon.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 11th December 2020.
Cocoon is released in select cinemas and on demand on 11th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for Cocoon here: