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FILM REVIEW HHH

Princess and the Warrior

NaÏve Princess, Dark Warrior Live Modern Fairy Tale

By Sandra Chung

Staff Writer

Written and Directed by Tom Tykwer

Starring Franka Potente, Benno FÜrman, and Joachim KrÓl

Rated R

[German, with English subtitles]

If you’ve ever seen a German film, you’ve probably seen Run Lola Run, the one about a woman with neon red hair running to deliver a load of deutschmarks to her boyfriend within 20 minutes to complete a shady deal and save his life. Star Franka Potente, director Tom Tykwer, and supporting actors Lars Rudolph and Joachim KrÓl collaborate again in The Princess and the Warrior.

Sissi (Franka Potente) was born in a psychiatric ward and has never lived anywhere else. As a ward nurse, she devotes herself entirely to the care of her patients, especially Otto (Melchior Beslon), a blind idiot, and Steini (Rudolph), a wiry troublemaker. Bodo Reimer (Benno FÜrman), an ex-soldier obsessed with the death of his wife, lives on the edge of society with his brother Walter (Joachim KrÓl).

Sissi and Bodo cross paths when Bodo causes the accident that nearly kills Sissi. Bodo saves her life, then disappears with hardly a trace. Sissi is convinced they’re destined to be together, and when she leaves the hospital, she tracks him down, only to meet a hostile dismissal. However, fate once again lends a hand in crashing Sissi’s life into Bodo’s, this time in a desperate run from the law. They must escape the police and battle the machinations of a jealous Steini to survive. But to stay with Sissi, Bodo faces a tougher battle within his own mind.

Writer/director Tom Tykwer’s script contains the bare minimum of dialogue. Few actors deal with silence well enough that Hollywood doesn’t have to supply audio and visual filler (e.g., Grammy award-winning songs and extra explosions). Potente and FÜrman deliver such nuanced, riveting performances that subtitles are almost unnecessary. Potente’s puppet physicality--immobile upper body, sparse facial expression, hipless walk--perfectly complements her childlike character. FÜrman’s bottled-up rage and suffering boil over in Bodo’s explosive dream sequences and burn in his expressive blue eyes (on which Tykwer wisely zooms in close). Not even the supporting actors waste so much as a twitch of a finger.

Princess boasts some of the best camera work I have ever seen. Some directors manage to pull off beautiful shots inevitably obscured by third-rate acting and mawkish orchestral swells. In Princess, the marvelous cinematography is unencumbered by the minimalist script and subtle soundtrack. Tykwer boldly pushes close enough to reveal the downy hair on Potente’s upper lip and Beslon’s crooked teeth. He flies the camera through an inverted loop to introduce Bodo’s character in an unforgettable bridge scene, then fills out his past with seamless transitions and gritty violence.

Princess has no sex or frontal nudity and some minor violence. A few disturbingly graphic scenes warrant the R rating. The psychiatric patients have incredibly realistic breakdowns and tantrums that made all but a few audience members cringe. Be prepared to see Otto eat glass shards and Bodo perform an emergency tracheotomy with a knife and a soda straw.

Don’t pay much attention to the subtitles. The translation misses some of the original connotations and the words aren’t terribly important anyway. The actor’s lines are from a barebones script; the depth of the story lies in the wealth of visible and intuitive information.

The Princess and the Warrior is an intense visual and emotional experience, best suited for modern art fans and hardcore romantics. In other words, it’s an “artsy” movie. But if you’re adventurous enough to try a non-Chinese, non-British foreign film, I highly recommend it.