The Princess and the Warrior (R)
Sony Pictures Classics Official Site
Director: Tom Tykwer
Producer: Stefan Arndt and Maria Kopf
Written by: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Franka Potente, Benno Farmann, Joachim Kral, Marita Breuer, Lars
Rating: out of 5
For all its time-bending, videogame-on-acid stylings, Tom Tykwer's RUN LOLA
RUN was a fairly empty endeavor. Philosophical issues were gussied up with
razzle-dazzle camera tricks and frenzied editing to tell the story of one
astonishing day three times over, all in an effort to illustrate how small,
seemingly inconsequential encounters and decisions affect life's larger
picture. Yet despite this quickly tiring conceit, the film's furiously hyper
visuals provided an adrenaline kick that largely annihilated any concerns
regarding its thematic shallowness.
Tykwer's new film, THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, is similarly infatuated with
coincidence and chance, although here the German-born director stages
not-so-random encounters as a means of commenting on ideas of fate and
destiny. The story revolves around a timid, slightly off-kilter nurse named
Sissi (played by RUN LOLA RUN's Franka Potente), who works in a mental health
clinic and yearns to break free from her mundane existence to faraway beaches
where she can hear the ocean not just in a conch shell (which she keeps
bedside), but with her own ears. With a perpetually stunned, glazed look in
her eyes and a reclusive, quiet demeanor, Sissi fits right in with her
patients, whom she treats less like inmates than comrades (she even has an
illicit relationship with one of the more flirtatious men on the ward).
Sissi's bland, uninteresting life, however, comes to an abrupt halt when,
while crossing a busy intersection, she is run down by a truck. Trapped under
the vehicle and unable to breathe, Sissi is miraculously saved by the
intervention of a stranger (newcomer Benno Farmann), who performs an
emergency tracheotomy with the use of only a blade and a straw before fleeing
the scene. Sissi, dazed and gasping for air, witnesses this heroic act with
astonishment and a sense of revelation and, after she has fully recovered,
goes in search of her savior.
This knight in shining armor, it turns out, is named Bodo, a former soldier
who lives with his brother Walter (Joachim Kral) and whose face seems to be
in a constant state of pained constipation. When Sissi does find Bodo, he
rejects her out of hand, although it soon becomes clear that Bodo is far from
cruel. Emotionally scarred by the untimely death of his wife years earlier,
Bodo always has tears streaming down his face (despite his repeated
insistence that he is not crying), the physical manifestation of emotional
wounds that refuse to heal.
Desperately in search of escape from their miserable situations, it is only a
matter of time before twists of fate throw the two star-crossed lovers back
together again, the most striking of which occurs during Sissi's visit to a
bank. There to retrieve an inheritance for her friend (who lives out of the
country), she instead finds herself in the middle of a heavily armed standoff
between security guards and Bodo and Walter, who are attempting to rob the
bank. Emboldened by her belief in their pre-ordained union, Sissi returns the
favor by coming to Bodo's rescue, and the two set out on a quasi-mystical
journey of self-discovery peppered with not-so-subtle clues hinting at the
couple's secret, fated bond.
As Sissi and Bodo encounter one strange coincidence after another, however,
Tykwer loses any sort of narrative drive, since both characters seem
impervious to the dangerous impediments in their path. Even more damaging to
the film, however, is the fact that the ethereally romantic tone Tykwer is
after loses its sincerity after the first hour, and lapses into parody after
the umpteenth coincidental event rears its head. As is his trademark, Tykwer
uses a wide array of nifty camera angles and effects, and cinematographer
Frank Greibe casts the film in a beautifully subdued, delicate glow.
Stretched out over two hours, however, THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR doesn't
have much to say about much of anything and, although gripping at times,
ultimately exposes the director's striking visual style as a cover-up for his
hollow, pretentious pseudo-profundity.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...