The Princess and the Warrior Movie Review
Tykwer reunites with Lola star Franka Potente, casting her as Sissi (the princess, presumably) a troubled mental ward nurse who probably ought to be a patient herself. After a morose 20-minute setup wherein the players are cryptically introduced, we find Sissi lying near death under a semi truck, run down in a city street. To her rescue comes the unlikely hero Bodo (the warrior?), played by the Gary Oldmanesque Benno Fürmann (also Potente's Anatomy costar), a two-bit crook who indirectly caused the collision in the first place. Bodo saves Sissi's life by giving her a homemade tracheotomy, and after a long recovery, the already unstable Sissi soon finds herself obsessed with her savior.
What follows is a mishmash of heist flicks and David Lynch movies as Sissi tracks Bodo down, is shunned by him, and later just-so-happens to run into him while he and his brother are robbing the local bank. To be sure, it's an atmospheric, dark, and weird story as we ride the elevated trains of Wuppertal, Germany, a picturesque small town laden with shadowy wrong turns.
Alas, it's too bad that the story of The Princess can't keep up with the creepiness of its setting. With little in the way of a guiding plot, the movie is poorly structured with confusing and random character arcs. Tykwer ultimately seems more obsessed with framing clever photographs than in telling his story and as a result, he manages even to make a bank robbery look boring.
As well, setting much of the film inside the mental hospital is a cheat, an easy out for excusing the behavior of characters that would otherwise go intolerated in the real world -- and wouldn't be tolerated in an asylum, either. The film feels more like a by-product of a bad dream Tykwer had but can only half-remember. Most notably this is manifest in Sissi's sudden revelation that leads to the film's climax, a confession that is as phony as they come. The neo-supernatural dénouement is just as foolish.
While Tykwer would have us believe The Princess is a meditation on chance and destiny and the meaning of life, the whole scenario is a contrivance and a fraud. Tykwer is naïve in mistaking cleverness in his use of coincidence and repeating themes for what is actually an obvious and lazy plot device. The result is an intensely restless audience who were hoping for another Lola and got quite the opposite.
The biggest slap of The Princess and the Warrior comes right at the end, when after you've suffered through 2 hours and 15 minutes of Tykwer's histrionics, he leaves you with a long, slow helicopter shot, pulling back from the final scene in a single take that lasts for a several minutes. Presumably we are left to ponder the depth of The Princess's meaning. Instead, we put on our jackets, check our watches, and wonder what happened to the budding talent of a new filmmaker.
Aka Der Krieger und die Kaiserin.
Pinch me, I'm dreaming.