Posted: 07/12/2001

 

The Princess and the Warrior [Der Krieger und die Kaiserin]

(2001)

by Coco Delgado



From the director of Run Lola Run


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Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle. She was lonely, but content, until one day a terrible accident befell her. A handsome warrior prince came and saved her life with a kiss…and then disappeared. All the princess had to find him with was the button from his coat, but she searched the kingdom high and low and found him living in a cottage high on a hill with his brother…and after fighting several demons, they moved to a new castle on the edge of the world and lived happily ever after.

And there you go. That’s pretty much the whole story of Tom Tykwer’s newly released film The Princess And The Warrior. It’s basically a fairy tale. But one must remember that the original fairy tales weren’t passive bedtime stories but were rather violent and gruesome affairs that have been sanitized for our protection over the centuries…and that the Grimm brothers, the collectors of these legends, were German.

So in this one, the Princess is a nurse, her castle is a psychiatric hospital, and her Warrior prince is an unemployed former soldier with a dead wife and a well-meaning brother with mercenary tendencies.

While there will be the inevitable comparisons to Tykwer’s first film, Run Lola Run, aside from the principal actress (Franka Potente), and the reasonably happy ending, the two films have little in common. Where Lola moved so quickly there was time to watch it over and over, “Princess” takes its time, lingering over ordinary things like a letter going through the mails, a trip on a public train, or a visit to a bank.

It’s almost excruciatingly slow, especially if you’re anticipating another frenetic Lola-esque romp, according to my companion. There are times where the action races ahead, and he wanted more of that. I rather liked the thoughtfulness of the slower scenes. However, like Lola there is that feeling of time and circumstance bending in on itself, where a detail at the beginning comes back to bite you later on. Almost enough to smell like a gimmick, and perhaps some will say it IS too close…but, remember, this is a fairy tale, a fable, and they’re allowed to be a bit heavy-handed.

But there are some wonderful moments, as when Sissi speaks about her father, or when Walter, Bodo’s brother, offers Sissi a drink. Or when one of the patients puts on a Patsy Cline record

It’s amazing to watch Franka Potente act, and it’s something you just couldn’t really do in the first film. Her character, Sissi, speaks volumes with just a look or a nod. There is one scene where one of the hospital inmates knocks her down. Her reaction is one of the best I have ever seen. Benno Furmann (Bodo, Sissi’s “Warrior”), plays a complex character, and in some scenes it works; others, it seems a bit strained. It’s hard to like Bodo, and while Tykwer tries, there are points where you just wonder what the hell Sissi sees in this guy.

But she does see something. And she makes him see it too.

One word of warning, there are some scenes that are pretty hard to watch. If you can’t stand the surgery scenes on ER or the needle-in-the-chest part of Pulp Fiction, you’ll need to brace yourself because there’s a bit of that in this movie…it’s realistic, but it’s unflinchingly so.

In a unique twist, there are TWO official websites for this film, and they’re both in German…so you’ll have to open up a translation website or find a friend who took German in high school to translate. There is a site for each of the title characters.

As a side note, there is one other thing I have to mention: About those public trains…all the action takes place in a town called Wuppertal, in central Germany near Dusseldorf. In this town, and in the movie, there is an interesting monorail train which, for part of its route, glides over a river. It’s an intriguing system, so intriguing, in fact, that I sat through all the German credits for the name of the city, and then went in search of a website

It’s mostly in German (of course) but there’s a bit in English about the trains (the Schwebebahn) as well as a live web cam! Pretty fascinating, and it makes this the most educational movie I’ve seen all year!

Coco Delgado is a writer who always sits in the front row. For fun she moves to different cities, which have included Montreal, San Francisco and Atlanta. This year it’s Boston..



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