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THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Joachim Krol
Director:  Tom Tykwer
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  133 Minutes
Release Date:  January 29, 2002

“I had a dream…we were together in my dream.  We were brother and sister, mother and father, husband and wife…”

Film ***

The Princess and the Warrior is one of the more unusual love stories offered in recent years…while the idea of two people thrown together by fate is not new, the way Sissi (Potente) and Bodo (Furmann) do it is not exactly by the numbers.  The romance is almost secondary to a kind of nihilistic desperation on the parts of both characters.

This film reunites director Tom Tykwer with his leading lady Potente…their international breakthrough Run Lola Run was an original, kinetic, and absorbing movie.  Here, Tykwer tackles some of the same themes about the synchronicity of certain events, and what they mean, if anything.  But Princess is quite different in stylistic terms.  Lola was a vibrant woman who seemed to twist fate by sheer will.  Sissi is a more fragile young girl whom fate often bends.

She is a nurse at a mental hospital, where her days consist of taking walks with a blind patient, sitting in on therapy meetings, and even being a little more accommodating than her job description probably called for, with only a meek “I’m tired” as a protest.

Her world is changed when she is hit by a truck in the streets.  A dreamy sequence occurs where a young man crawls under the truck to get to her, and performs an emergency tracheotomy on her so she can breathe.  She escapes alive…the doctors call it a miracle…and she sets out determined to find the man who saved her life.

That man is, of course, Bodo, who isn’t quite a gallant Prince Charming.  He is a petty criminal, plotting with his brother to rob a bank by tunneling into the vault.  When Sissi shows up at their door, he is less than enthused.  But she can’t stay away, and reasons he doesn’t understand, neither can he.

I don’t want to reveal the little twists in the story that may or may not explain the cosmic uniting of this pair…it’s definitely Tykwer’s food for thought, and it deserves to be savored first hand.  His pacing is slow and thoughtful, but the film rarely seems to drag.  One or two shots, including a long pull back at the end, could have been judiciously trimmed, but overall, there are no complaints.

His visual style is intact…even though this picture doesn’t have the manic energy of Run Lola Run, Tykwer still uses impeccable camerawork, staging, and effects to convey both tangible and psychological information.  He lets his actors’ work shine through in every frame, intuitively realizing that sometimes a silent expression can say more than pages of meandering dialogue.

The ending is a rather bold exercise in chutzpah.  Tykwer simply uses the medium of film to literally communicate what is transpiring figuratively.  His movie gently suggests that all things are possible, and considering none of his characters are really of the most sound mind, why not?

Sissi and Bodo are two damaged souls who come together because something greater than them seemed to plan it that way.  Is theirs a path of healing or self-destruction?  The movie spends most of its time suggesting it could go either way, but despite some strange occurrences along the way, one can feel the ultimate emotion is hope. 

Even the title suggests hope from hopelessness.  Is Sissi a princess, or is Bodo a warrior?  Hardly.  But maybe the movie hints that even the most pained human beings have a shot at that kind of fairy tale happiness.  Either that, or happily ever after is where you find it and how you make it…take your pick.

Video ***1/2

This is a quality anamorphic transfer from Columbia Tri Star, one that really captures and expresses Tykwer’s visual style beautifully.  The colors are natural and bright from start to finish, and images are generally sharp and well rendered, save for one or two brief darker scenes where a little definition is lost.  I wonder what color hair Ms. Potente will be sporting in her next Tykwer film?

Audio ***

The 5.1 audio is mostly centered on the forward stage, with good clean dialogue and good panning effects.  The rear stage opens up during a couple of key scenes; apart from that, it mostly exists for ambience and to enhance the music.  The .1 channel gets a few signals, but not many…if there’s a problem with the mix, I think too much bass was sent to the center channel instead of the subwoofer, where it doesn’t render quite as vibrantly (at least not on my system).  That minor notice aside, this is still a highly serviceable track.

Features ****

There are two commentary tracks to choose from, and both are enjoyable listens.  The more informative one is Tom Tykwer by himself, who discusses the making of the project in great detail with lots of scene-specific comments and discussions of his ideas and thoughts behind his creation.  The second track features Tykwer with his two leading stars, recorded together.  It’s a more laid back track, with some humor.  All three speak English quite well.

There is a half hour making-of featurette, which is in German with subtitles…a decent piece, as far as they go.  There are a couple of deleted scenes, a music video, filmographies, and some three trailers, for this film, Run Lola Run and Go.

Summary:

The Princess and the Warrior is an original and intriguing piece of filmmaking that serves as a complete change of pacing from Tom Tykwer’s last movie.  It’s a strangely romantic, ethereal exploration of two sad characters and the influence of fate, and serves as one of the year’s better offerings.