At 14 she was “Christiane F.”, at 16 fleeing media hype, first to London and then to Paris, and at 31 she began writing screenplays. Now, at 55, Natja Brunckhorst has directed her first feature film: “Everything in the best order”, a fine, melancholic comedy about the dental technician Marlen (Corinna Harfouch), who can’t throw anything away, and one day the IT organizer Fynn (Daniel Sträßer ) meets. A conversation about proper messies, the laptop as the only possession and the question of why her directorial debut was decades in coming.

WORLD: It took a long time, the first feature film as a director. Why?

Natja Brunckhorst: Among other things, because there is another life than film. Because it was important to me that my child would grow up well. If you shoot a film, you’re completely gone for four months. And it made more sense to write. I’m quite happy with the way. From the moment I wanted to direct, it just took a while to find the right project, get the financing, and start shooting. Making films is for marathon runners.

WORLD: A lot of women are now winning prizes at the big festivals: Eliza Hitman, Chloe Chao, Céline Sciamma. Women under 40. Do you have any regrets?

Brunckhorst: A sentence comes to mind: “Humility means not comparing”. And humility can’t hurt you, especially as an artist. If I said I made “Everything Fine” I would be completely insane, so many creative people were involved. Directors are universal dilettantes, or should we say: universal managers who are constantly reacting to the situation. The content is easy for me. I’ve always been a film person, even before “Christiane F.”

WORLD: When did that start?

Brunckhorst: I went to the cinema alone for the first time when I was nine, to the studio cinema on Adenauerplatz in Berlin, to see West Side Story. But I was under the mistaken assumption that this was a western. Then Maria came instead and she flashed me incredibly.

WORLD: When you were 18, did you realize that you wanted to stay in the business?

Brunckhorst: Nope. I wasn’t sure in which position. I might be able to act a bit, but I don’t have the right disposition for an actress. I like to put on a little show when I’m on stage with a microphone and I’m talking to the audience about my film. It’s in me, but I’m not the red carpet type.

WORLD: You are said to have said when you left the schoolyard as Christiane F., “Well, if it has to be.”

Brunckhorst: I said so. That’s just this Berlin snotness. Since every Berliner hides his shyness underneath.

WORLD: How do you come up with a film about a woman who fills her apartment to the ceiling because she can’t part with anything?

Brunckhorst: “Everything in the best order” is a homage to my mother, who was highly intelligent and very pretty. And had a lot of things at home. Unfortunately, she is already dead, but she would be happy about the film. It was important to me that you can laugh and that the film doesn’t make any judgments. There is no such thing as too much or too little, there is no right or wrong. Nobody needs a Marie Kondo who tells you that it can go and that can go too. Everyone has their own comfort zone.

WORLD: A term that is quickly applied is “messie”. What do you make of it?

Brunckhorst: Corinna Harfouch’s character has absolutely nothing to do with a “messie”. She is a collector, a loving collector of things. It’s about appreciation.

WORLD: Nevertheless, at the beginning of the film, when she lets someone into her apartment for the first time, she already came to the realization that she had to part with some things. Most collectors don’t see it that way, do they?

Brunckhorst: That’s not true. It’s the other way around: anyone who’s accumulated far too much knows they need to do something. They will tell you that straight to your face. Only: That does not mean that they have the strength to do something. Even if – as in the film – help is offered, it is not necessarily useful. Objects are like our second skin. Things we touch every day do something to us, like your favorite sweater. I’m in love with my old computer—it’s nine years old now—and nobody understands why I’m still using it. But I can’t imagine writing with another one as long as it still works.

WORLD: We have the pair of opposites: He as a professional organizer and she, who doesn’t have much to do with order.

Brunckhorst: She has a lot to do with order. She rearranges every day, she thinks a lot about where things go. Most such people know exactly where to find what. You get a lot of organizational aids, such as file folders or shelves. I talked to someone who said to me, “I sort everything by format, so I know what’s where.” But it’s too much.

WORLD: This is the order out of the compulsion to have to accommodate more and more, like with Marlen. Fynn has the inner urge for order.

Brunckhorst: I didn’t want to explain exactly where that came from with the two of them. I also told my two actors that they were nothing special. They are just people. It’s not about an illness. It’s just life.

WORLD: Where do you place yourself on a scale of one to ten?

Brunckhorst: It’s wafting back and forth. Do you have children or not? Are you still young or older? The first apartment is messier than the second. You just have to feel that the ebb and flow, the in and out, are about even. When my daughter lived with me, I had more things than now. My choir came to visit once, 30 people, and I found that I could put a plate in everyone’s hands. The apartment gave it. I no longer have 30 plates. The way I do it now is that I give away one thing every day. On bad days, I put away something that comes easily to me, that I’ve wanted to sort out for a long time. On a good day, I let go of something that hurts me.

WORLD: A few examples, please.

Brunckhorst: On bad days, I go to my desk and throw away a few papers. I don’t have to think about it that much. On a good day, I go to the closet, which is full because I often think of safety when it comes to clothes. I have a tad too many. I like the sweater, but it’s going to get rid of anyway. My daughter, on the other hand, is just setting up.

WORLD: We tend to live in times when you don’t carry so much through life anymore, in extreme cases only your laptop like Fynn. That would strike me as a bit creepy.

Brunckhorst: If you were fine with that, that would be fine. Personally, that would not be enough for me either. I travel a lot and sometimes take photos of hotel room ceilings (which all look pretty similar, by the way). Afterwards, I’m always incredibly happy to come home and sit on my sofa with my favorite blanket. A person like Fynn is a bit too free for my inner feeling. In the sense of always being on the go and not being able to form a bond. But that’s just my interpretation. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid in my film.

WORLD: You totally disappeared after “Christiane F.”, to London. What did you take with you?

Brunckhorst: I only had one suitcase then. And very nice people who took me in.

WORLD: How long did this wanderlust last?

Brunckhorst: Not that long at all. I left home when I was 15, fled to London when I was 16, and by the time I was 18 I was settled again in the sense that I had a permanent home. That’s youth, that’s normal.