The Kleist Files

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  • ischia

Kleist, the linguistic genius. Kleist, the clearsighted, the vulnerable and, at the same time, the megalomaniac. The dreamer, the adventurer, the patriot and simultaneous fugitive of Prussia. Kleist, the dramatist. How can we approach a man like Kleist two hundred years after his death?




52/43 min


Simone Dobmeier, Hedwig Schmutte and Torsten Striegnitz


Potsdam, the 21st of November, 1811. In a few minutes the German poet Heinrich von Kleist, together with a woman named Henriette Vogel, is going to die here at the Lesser Wannsee lake.

Early in the morning, Henriette Vogel had herself dressed in a white dress with cambric lace. Then they went for a walk in the forest, hand in hand. Now, at the side of the lake, they have ordered coffee and are playfully relaxing like two infatuated children. A few seconds later, two gunshots ring out: The first bullet hits her directly in the heart, the second one hits Kleist directly in the head. A short time later, the two bodies are found by the Prussian Police in a sand hollow close to the lakeshore. In the minutes of the investigating officers, it is noted that no weapons were found at the crime scene. Furthermore, it is also noted that the two bodies are facing each other in a peculiar arrangement. Henriette‘s head is leaning back, and a red fleck glares on the white dress in the area of the heart. Kleist‘s head is sunken upon her breast.

What exactly happened at the Lesser Wannsee lake? Why did one of the greatest German dramatists have to die a violent death at the age of 34?

We start, after 200 years, by re-opening the file. Was Kleist shot by someone? Or did he shoot himself? On the basis of the Prussian protocols we reconstruct the crime scene; we return to the original location and, with the assistance of actors, we recreate the possible sequence of events — in all possible variations. Was Kleist the victim or perpetrator? Was it a political intrigue, a relationship drama, or an act of desperation?

Written & Directed by
Simone Dobmeier
Hedwig Schmutte
Torsten Striegnitz

Director of Photography
Axel Schneppat

Sound Design
Jürgen Funk

Andreas Bick
Andreas Koslik

Production Managers
Kathrin Isberner
Rainer Baumert (rbb)

Georg Tschurtschenthaler

Executive Producer
Christian Beetz

Commissioning Editors
Dagmar Mielke
Jens Stubenrauch

The Kleist Files
  • „Just in diesem Moment überraschen uns die aus dem Theaterbereich stammenden jungen Regisseure Hans Block und Moritz Riesewieck mit einem erstaunlichen Dokumentarfilm, der seit Monaten Publikum und Kritik auf den wichtigsten Festivals der Welt elektrisiert. Völlig zu Recht: Es ist, als würden einem die Scheuklappen weggerissen, als sähe man das, was sich seit Jahren direkt vor unseren Augen abspielt, zum ersten Mal unverschleiert... eine fesselnde ,Doku noir' mit höchstem Anspruch...Dieser Film müsste an allen Schulen gezeigt werden.“
    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

In co-production with

  • wdr

In co-production with

  • rbb

In association with

  • arte

Supported by

  • medienboard