• Aron Lehmann © Anne Wilk
    It’s about
    the story

A portrait of director Aron Lehmann

Aron Lehmann © Anne Wilk

Aron Lehmann has no time for pigeonholing, as has been obvious in his work repeatedly over the last ten years. Mainstream or arthouse, comedy or drama – he didn’t think in such categories, which generally determine the German cinema landscape, even for his debut KOHLHAAS ODER DIE VERHÄLTNISMÄSSIGKEIT DER MITTEL, and this has not changed, even today.

Since that diploma film, with which he completed his studies at the Konrad Wolf Academy of Film and Television in Potsdam, Lehmann‘s works have been characterised by a balancing act between sophisticated ideas and casual wit that is achieved with almost playful ease. He also excels in combining commercial accessibility and unconventional narrative approaches, whether he is making a culture clash comedy for Pantaleon Films (HIGHWAY TO HELLAS), an offbeat grotesque about the abyss of animal husbandry (THE LAST SOW), a Romcom with teens and music (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD), or a Netflix series about funerals (THE LAST WORD).

“How consciously do we choose the paths in our lives?” Lehmann responds with a counter-question when I try to find out how deliberately he took this approach of cinematic tightrope walking. “In any case, the imprint of my childhood was already a thoroughly peculiar mix. Through my father, who is a bookseller and an incredibly well-read person, I was taught to enjoy beautiful, even sophisticated literature. At the same time, I come from the country, where there was just one cinema that only showed blockbusters, the top five in the cinema charts.”

Today, he prefers to leave definitions of his signature as a director to others. “All I can say is that I always try to serve the story,” explains the 40-year-old, who made his first short films as a 12-year-old using his uncle‘s camcorder, and actually only finished school because you needed a high school diploma to go to film school. “If you take yourself more seriously than the story you‘re telling, that‘s dangerous. It shouldn‘t be about whether people recognise that a film is mine. I need to be humble before the story and figure out how to make it shine, and, of course, my actors and my team have to be deeply involved.”

It goes without saying for Lehmann that humour is always a part of this; after all, he wants “my stories to feel real and evolve from life. And you show me a world where there is no laughter!” Since 2018’s THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD wowed critics and audiences alike, winning numerous awards, there is also confidence in the industry as a whole that his approach works, as he points out: “Actually, there is a great desire in this country to be commercially successful and funny without always going for a predefined formula. And I think it‘s important that we, as filmmakers, don‘t just leave commercial cinema to the business people. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of courage and insufficient eye for as-yet-untested talent that could be allowed into the mainstream.”

Meanwhile, Lehmann continues to pursue his path unflinchingly and without constraining categories. His new film DEER SEASON has just been released in German cinemas, a veritable dream project. The leading role in this comedy is played by his partner Rosalie Thomass, together with whom Lehmann also wrote the screenplay (based on a draft by Lea Schmidbauer). “For us as a family, this working constellation was a real blessing,” enthuses the father of two. “Being able to stay together, working together on a project and taking the children with us – we would love to do that again.”

But the next project is already in the bag, the film adaptation of the bestseller WHAT YOU CAN SEE FROM HERE by Mariana Leky. “The book triggered a very special emotion when I read it, and finding that again for the film was an exciting challenge,” Lehmann enthuses with audible anticipation of the film’s first public showings. “Especially because there is no clear, stringent story told in three acts. I was curious to see how far I could push it – and now I‘m even more curious to see how it will be received by our audiences.” But he became adept long ago at leaving all expectations and pigeon­holes to one side.

Patrick Heidmann