As a miner's daughter, Leonie Brandt (1901-1978) dreamed of becoming an actress. That dream came true when she made her debut in 1925 in the Amsterdam City Theater. In the following years she developed into a versatile actress.
She marries the confectioner Carl Brandt and has two children. Around 1936, she happens to find out that the Victoria Hotel in Amsterdam is full of spies. This triggers all her ambitions and talents. Her life takes a radical turn. She becomes active as a spy for the Dutch intelligence service in Nazi Germany and infiltrates the SD and the highest regions of the Abwehr. She masters the espionage profession down to the last detail. In a rush of lucidity and recklessness, she plays the role of her life. That the stakes in this game are very high, even a matter of life or death, only makes it more interesting for her.
During the war, she was arrested by the SD and deported to Ravensbrück with a death sentence. She manages to survive the nightmare of the concentration camp. After her return, she plays a dubious role in the post-war Dutch intelligence service. She is part of the team that interrogates German war criminals. She knows them all and they are scared to death of her. But a number of prominent Dutchmen also fear Leonie for what she knows about their actions during the occupation. She is said to have explosive information about the so-called Stadtholder Letter from 1942, in which Prince Bernhard proposes to Hitler to become Stadtholder of the Netherlands. Until well after Leonie's death, this has been a recurring media hype. After the death of her husband, she moved with her children in 1952 to a village in South Limburg, near the German border, where she ran a run-down café. She gets hooked on the booze and is admitted to a rehab clinic for some time. She died in 1978.
The film more or less follows the chronology of this astonishing life story in which appearance and reality constantly merge into one another. The narrative framework of the film is a staged interview between the old lawyer Besier and a researcher. After the war, Besier got to know Leonie from close. He recalls that Leonie was present at film screenings in 1947, just after the founding of the film museum. One after the other, the old images she saw evoked memories. And that is what we see: scenes from old films from the Eye Film Museum archive, while we hear Leonie talk about her life off-screen, through the voice of an actress. The various actresses from the film fragments together form the portrait of this hard-to-grasp woman.
Leonie deliberately created a haze of mystery around her. Her life has experienced the most unlikely episodes. How ‘real’ or ‘fictional’ they are is not always clear. The film is about that dividing line. If you want to tell her life, you constantly are confronted with the question: who was Leonie Brandt really? Besier and the researcher speculate about the truthfulness of Leonie's stories and place them in a historical context. In addition, there is the voice of the maker, Annette Apon, who highlights a completely different aspect of Leonie, namely the exceptional way in which she has shaped her life, and the existential freedom that she has created for herself.