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The short film The Paperbird (original title: Der Papiervogel) tells the end of a love story between two young girls in the early Renaissance and how art is able to eternalize the ephemeral. The film is an examination of loss and grief, the meaning of memory and how those who are gone can continue to exist in art.

Perceiving art as a way to capture thoughts, emotions and ideas is not at all new, but it is a beautiful thought worth repeating that intrigued me to turn the story by M. I. Lia into images. With a rather small crew and basically no budget we shot The Paperbird during the end of summer 2023 in Hamburg and its surroundings. It was a self-produced work I directed and for which in the course of several months I designed and handmade the props, headpieces and the costumes.

Having lost a parent shortly before shooting the film, for me this project became a personal examination of art and death and an immense undertake to realize; an amazing and painful experience at the same time. All my heart and soul went into creating the images with as much detail as possible and into portraying the love between the two young girls with equal sensitivity. Therefore, developing the characters with both lead actresses while taking into consideration the context of the Renaissance and its social implications was as important for me as creating the details of the scenery. The camerawomen and I tried to give every scene as much attention as if we were creating a painting, having always in mind that every element, small or omnipresent, contributes to the final image.


Of all preparations for the movie the costumes took most of my time; they were designed, sewed and embroidered by myself over the course of several months. Particularly inspirational for the design of the dresses were paintings of the early Renaissance by Italian painters. I finally settled on the Florentine style of the girls’ dresses as well as for the costume of the male role. As mentioned in the film, both families (notably father and brother) have in some way a connection to Italy as merchants and / or in terms of artistic interests. Therefore, I wanted this aspect to be mirrored in the costumes: The girls wear the Florentine fashion that their fathers probably have brought home from their journeys to Italy.

Equally important to me were the costumes as a reflection of the characters who wear them. For the reasonable Johanna I found rather tight dresses to be fitting. Her sleeves are tight, the pearls not hanging on strings but sewed on the dress with no space to move.

Whereas the dress of the rather impulsive and freedom-loving Sophia became wide, “free”, with huge sleeves, loose and wide fabric and the pearls hanging on chains and strings. I wanted Sofia’s dress to become vibrant when she moves and its fabric and the pearls in her hair, on her back and her side to be swirling around her.  


With much love for detail we included art references in the film in order to emphasize the guiding themes of the film: memory in art and eternity.

Since the message of the film is how those who aren’t anymore can still live on in art, we wanted to associate the moment of death in the film with art. And Ophelia by John Everett Millais seemed to be the perfect painting to achieve that, since it brought its own layers to the story. We tried to recreate the scene of the painting as best as we could, including some of the flowers Millais chose, most importantly forget-me-nots, whose name already introduces the theme.

In the same way I wanted to turn the painter’s room in the film less realistic and more “artistic”, with references to Leanordo da Vinci, an icon of the Renaissance, ivy as a symbol of eternity and the fruit basket of Caravaggio. The latter is originally a still life; a genre that regained significance during the Renaissance and which illustrates the ephemeral of things. 

With                                       Marleen Heidtkamp

                                                Janne Pauline Böhm

                                                Philipp Rieper

Script                                     M. I. Lia

Camera & DoP                     Lisa Schmautz

First camera assistant        Saskia Mayerhoff

Lighting                                Kerstin Reder

Sound                                    Yoshimi Saravia Machida

                                                Mathis Müller

                                                Rafael Sommer

Sound editing                    Christian Witte

Hair & Make-up                Emily Hildebrandt

Production assistance      René Schare

                                              Alina Orth

                                              Sebastian Hempel

                                              Enya Pfauter 

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