Ulrike Ottinger is one of the most prominent German avant-garde artists known for her paintings, photographs and, above all, her fictional movies. Fiction and reality are often very close, as she says: “My films are often set in futuristic landscapes and create a surreal imagery, but my inspirations often come from reality, from observing the world, the people, their different cultures and traditional role patterns.“ Through a surrealist lens, her art work addresses the role of power and its ability to suppress and marginalize difference. Her works are admired for their radical treatment of sexuality and gender and the challenge of traditional role patterns, manifesting itself in strong and exceptional female characters. Acting as writer, director and producer, her movies have always been strong voices within the Women’s movement.
Ulrike Ottinger started as an artist studying etching techniques with Johnny Friedlaender in Paris in the early nineteen-sixties, where she also began experimenting with film and a film script titled Die Mongolische Doppelschublade. Her first movie – Laocoon & Sons – a film about a country named Laura Molloy and a woman undergoing a series of infinite transformations, premiered in 1973. The film anticipates and already contains many elements that reappear in Ottinger's later movies: an unusual country, an extraordinary woman, and a chain of magic transformations that give rise to a series of eccentric character depictions.
The notion of transformation, taken from Virginia Woolf's Orlando, the poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history, remains a significant theme in Ottinger’s movies.