Nanouk Leopold

With six feature films so far, Nanouk Leopold (1968) is one of the most prominent directors in the Netherlands who writes her own scenarios and screenplays. Her films are selected for prestigious film festivals such as Cannes and Berlin. For Guernsey, she received a Golden Calf for best director and Maria Kraakman won one for best leading actress.

Leopold doesn’t use classic cinematic realism. Her films have little story and plot. Leopold: ‘I want my films to be more about what the viewer thinks and feels than about someone who does something on screen.’ She prefers not to evoke emotions by letting a character cry, but rather by means of a subtle use of lighting and space. Vrij Nederland: ‘It makes her a rare occurrence in the Dutch world of cinema; her work is a breath of fresh air among the films that would rather talk than show, that prefer blatant emotion over meaningful silence.’

What stands out is the sparing amount of dialogue. Her use of close-ups also shows that her filmic language is related to that of directors from the 1960s and 1970s who also wrote their own scenarios ad screenplays, like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Michelangelo Antonioni. About the latter, Leopold says: ‘His outspoken visual style and precision really move me. He has an eye for detail and for coincidences that don’t seem to matter, but are a symbol of something bigger. I identify especially with the way he uses architecture and space in order to express how people feel.’

Her theme is how people become strangers to their own surroundings and observe themselves from a distance. Who are you? What do you mean to others? In Brownian Movement, a doctor in a marriage crisis puts the resilience of her relationship to the test by experimenting sexually with her patients. In Guernsey, a woman struggles with the question why she is so alienated from those who are dearest to her.

Leopold’s most successful film was Boven is het stil (The Twin), after Gerbrand Bakker’s novel about a lonely farmer – Jeroen Willems’s last film role – who takes care of his terminally ill father at a remote farm and has feelings for the milkman, played by Wim Opbrouck.