Natja Brunckhorst • Director of Mostly Minimalistic
“I didn't want to do a typical German film; I was looking to make a French film with English humour, as I would put it”
by Teresa Vena
- The directorial debut by the German actress, producer and scriptwriter focuses on objects and how they can make us feel good as well as bad
The tragicomedy Mostly Minimalistic [+see also:
interview: Natja Brunckhorst
film profile] by Natja Brunckhorst was recently released in German cinemas, courtesy of Filmwelt. It stars Corinna Harfouch in the main role, who impresses with a solid performance. The film is a touching ode to the individual differences in people that make life so colourful. We talked to the director about her inspiration, among other topics.
Cineuropa: Mostly Minimalistic is very colourful. How did you develop the aesthetics of the film?
Natja Brunckhorst: I like the colour red, especially wine-red. I think Corinna Harfouch looks very good in it. So does Daniel Sträßer, the male protagonist. It gives them a freshness and a vibrancy, which I underlined by adding olive green to the picture. It was important for me that the pair would look good, and starting from the colours of their costumes, I then thought about the rest of the visual impact of the film. It was necessary to choose monochrome items to decorate the apartment with because of the twist at the end of the story. Moreover, we extracted only one colour from it – namely, white. This is how we created such a dense colour scheme. We visualised the flat like a cave, where things would hang from the top and rise from the bottom into the picture. The idea of the cave also reflects the feelings of the protagonist towards her flat.
You mostly used a steady camera. Why?
I don't like it when the camera moves around too much. It's just an illusion that a hand-held camera reflects the inner turmoil of the characters or automatically evokes a greater intimacy. This might be true on a physical level, but not on an emotional one. In my opinion, it can even be disturbing. The same goes for improvisation – it doesn't help evoke more naturalness or authenticity. We evoke a sense of reality when we don't improvise. Moreover, wild camera movements distract us too much; I want to see the pictures. I want each picture to look like it has been made for the cinema and to attract the audience to go to the cinema. Therefore, I paid a lot of attention to framing each picture harmoniously. I didn't want to do a typical German film; I was looking to make a French film with English humour, as I would put it.
What’s striking about your two protagonists is that you eschew a moralistic or didactic tone. They act differently to what we, as a society, might expect, but you don't treat them as “sick”.
The female protagonist is a passionate collector; she can't throw things away. She loves even the tiniest of things and treats them respectfully. I met a lot of collectors and saw that same behaviour in them. I wanted to speak about it in a positive way: there is no right or wrong. The male protagonist tries to go in a completely different direction and live with a maximum of 100 things in his possession. Each has what he or she needs. I don't want to judge them. It’s only when you have the impression that you are suffering that you have to seek help. But there’s no need to look at everything as a pathological condition. It is human to have different emotions regarding things and to choose different existential philosophies.
What inspired you to tell this story?
The film is, in some way, a homage to my mother. She was a great dancer and a beautiful woman, and she had a lot of belongings. I remember that she had a Colani armchair from the 1970s, for example, which I loved very much. This is why a similar armchair is very important in the film, too. But besides that, I felt a great fascination when it came to telling the story of such a character.
How important are belongings for you, personally?
Each object has its own story. We associate emotions with objects. And yes, I am closer to the female protagonist than to the male one. I guess this is something innate. I have always felt more comfortable with things around me, as I collect a lot, while my brother is the opposite. He is very tidy, whereas I carry a little chaos of my own wherever I go.
Did you intend for Harfouch to play the main role from the beginning?
Yes, I wanted her to play the role because I like her charisma very much. She reminds me of my mother. She has a dry, almost cool side, but is very beautiful and at the same time shows huge vulnerability. The camera loves Corinna.
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