DIRECTOR/WRITER: LEONIE KRIPPENDORFF
CAST: LENA URZENDOWSKI; JELLA HAASE
GERMANY 2020; 99 mins
IN CINEMAS & STREAMING FROM 11 DECEMBER 2020IN CINEMAS & STREAMING FROM DEC 11
Photos: Romy (Jella Haase) and Nora (Lena Urzendowski) in Cocoon
REVIEW by KATHLEEN BONDAR
It is a hot summer in Kotti Kreuzber, the multicultural, deprived part of Berlin crowded by high rises and caged playgrounds. Fourteen-year-old Nora (Lena Urzendowski) is watching her older sister Jule (Lena Klenke) and best friend Aylin (Elina Vildanova) practice starvation diets and take endless selfies lounging in each other’s arms. With the contempt and embarrassment of a worldly sibling forced to supervise a gauche little sister, Jule reluctantly takes on Nora whilst their mother is busy nurturing a glass of anything alcoholic. It is the beginning of Nora’s puberty. Her periods flood as uncontrollably as her sexual attraction for Romy (Jella Haase) a new girl in town from a beatnik set.
School in Kotti is a holding ground for over sexualised teenagers (every subject a porn joke) from Turkish and poor, white German backgrounds. When the bell rings at the end of lessons, they stampede to dug outs where they get wasted, make-out and hurl affectionate obscenities at one another. That said, Germany’s youth scene in Kotti has its own rap and party vibe and in Cocoon (Kokon) we see it buzzing.
Cocoon plays with the metaphor of a larvae growing into a blindly searching caterpillar before it transforms into a moth attracted to the flame. In fact, Nora keeps caterpillars in jars in the bedroom she shares with her big sister, much to Jule’s disgust.
Director and writer Leonie Krippendorff's camera tags the girls, literally chasing the cast round corners into bedrooms and dope dens. Cocoon is skilfully littered with YouTube style videos, taken as if by someone else or the girls themselves. Krippendorff's directing shows, as well as follows, all this from Nora’s point of view as she navigates the vagaries, contradictions, thrills and injustices of the world, something particularly confusing for young lesbians.
In Cocoon, the heat wave is a cue for pubescent nudity, sometimes treading a fine line between what could be construed as soft porn (plenty of crutch shots in skimpy bikinis) but manages to become a sassy, fly-on-the-wall drama. Commonly, as shown in Cocoon, teenagers fool around and play up - with fun, funny and desperate consequences.
The young cast deliver some courageous and explicit scenes, with credit to Lena Urzendowski as Nora, which she plays with poignancy. Leonie Krippendorff offers an upbeat representation of young lesbians in Cocoon (refreshingly without resorting to cliches on cultural clashes in Kotti). Whilst Nora watches Jule and Aylin strike a lesbian pose for the guys at parties, we know that Nora's sexuality is so much more and that she'll be perfectly fine.