Irgendwo da draußen wartet die Liebe
In 1999, a German director by the name of Tom Tykwer made movie fans at the Sundance Film Festival sit up and take notice with his quirky, frenetic thriller Run Lola Run. It was a fast-paced film about a girl named Lola (Franka Potente) with bright red hair who could break things by screaming. It also had a great deal to say about how a single decision frozen in a single moment in time could determine the events that were about to unfold.
Call it what you will. They're themes common to Tykwer's masterful follow-up The Princess and the Warrior, which Columbia TriStar has thankfully brought to DVD.
Facts of the Case
Sissi (Potente) leads a rather sheltered life, working as a nurse and residing in a state run asylum. A simple letter from a friend leads her out on a routine errand at a bank, but a near-fatal accident occurs and Sissi finds herself being saved by a man named Bodo (Benno Fürmann). After Sissi recovers from her injuries, she tries to return to her life but is haunted by the face of the man who saved her. Sissi then goes to great lengths to find Bodo, and when she eventually finds him, she discovers that there's a lot more to Bodo than she realized. Bodo seems to be somewhat prone to violence and a misogynist due to a troubling event in his past dealing with the horrible death of a former love. It's a terrible tragedy and the more Sissi attempts to connect with Bodo, the more he tries to push her away.
Fate intervenes once again as Sissi tries to complete her errand at the bank, not knowing that Bodo and his brother plan to rob it on that very morning. The robbery quickly turns violent, however, and Bodo and Sissi once again find their lives on a collision course.
Of course, that's really only a snapshot of The Princess and the Warrior, as the plot is far more complex, though to tell much more would be to give away some of the surprises Tykwer unfolds in the narrative. On one hand, the story seems simple enough; at its core, it's about two star-crossed lovers who find themselves together due to a random occurrence. On the other hand, it's a complex fable of redemption and second chances. And yet on another hand, it's a story about how our lives aren't necessarily within our control, that there are forces at work that we simply can't understand (nor should we try). And yet on another hand, it's a story of coping with loss, emptiness, and loneliness. Tykwer also manages to introduce a number of disturbing elements to the story that would make Quentin Tarantino proud—Sissi's emergency tracheotomy is rather disgusting, but implied ideas of incest will make the audience cringe and set them on edge. If anything, The Princess and the Warrior is vastly unpredictable.
The two main characters, Sissi and Bodo, are a bit of a conundrum. In many aspects they're incredibly similar—they're both isolated from the outside world by their circumstances, and it's within this that they eventually find a connection with each other. But it's the differences in their individual histories that keep them apart. Sissi has always lived in the asylum (her mother and father were both patients there) and as such she's very sheltered. Her training as a nurse, however, compels her to reach out and heal Bodo's spirit, not too unlike the way Bodo mends her body after the accident. Bodo, on the other hand, is well traveled and worldly. A former soldier who's seen his share of suffering on a personal level, Bodo has managed to shut the world out and push everyone but his brother away from him. The performances by both Potente and Fürmann are equally compelling, with both actors telling a great deal of the story with their eyes and body language. Potente's role in Run, Lola, Run was far more action driven with very little dialogue, and though I've seen the film several times I never realized how expressive her face is. Going back and watching Lola again I was amazed at the nuances she was able to give a character that basically ran around from location to location. Needless to say, her role in The Princess and the Warrior required a good deal less action and a lot more intensity in emotional expression, something Potente pulls off extraordinarily. I must say, however, that I miss her wildly-colored, frazzled hair from Run Lola Run.
Tykwer's script for The Princess and the Warrior demanded a much slower pace than Run Lola Run, but that certainly doesn't mean Princess is any less dynamic. Tykwer is a cunning and daring director, continuously utilizing engaging camera angles and stunning imagery to tell his story. An early scene gives us a glimpse of Bodo's life as we see him impossibly balancing on the edge of a bridge overlooking a busy highway. The camera motion is dizzying and conveys Bodo's hope "to fly." Bodo is also preoccupied with bathing, continuously trying to wash away the guilt for his former lover's gruesome death. And while Bodo is consumed by water, Sissi manages to shun it with a raincoat as she tries to shield herself from the world—yet another difference between the characters. This is obviously not a film created in the generic connect-the-dots Hollywood studio system.
One last thing that really struck me as a unique quality of The Princess and the Warrior is the depth of the supporting characters, most noticeably the patients in the asylum. While I noticed all sorts of nervous ticks by these characters, I didn't realize their true depth until watch the making-of featurette included on this DVD. Each actor was pretty much given an idea what made their characters tick and they were each allowed to ascertain and fully flesh out their characters. It's certainly an intriguing approach to character development, but it works and the results speak for themselves. Sissi's bizarre existence feels as real as yours or mine.
Columbia TriStar has given The Princess and the Warrior a very credible though imperfect anamorphic transfer. The colors are all vibrant but there are minor problems with graininess and slight amounts of edge enhancement in a few scenes. Overall, this is not something the casual viewer is going to notice. The soundtrack is unfortunately only a two channel stereo mix, and there are a number of scenes that would have greatly benefited from a 5.1 mix. The special features on this DVD are not plentiful, but they make up for it in quality. At first I was a bit nervous about listening to the commentary tracks, since the film was created in German, a language I've learned and forgotten (I have no idea what the tagline at the start of this review means) and I was wondering how the commentary would interact with the English subtitles. Fortunately, Tykwer, Potente, and Fürmann all speak pretty good English. There are a few occasions where one of them will get hung up on a word, but it adds a bit to the charm, and both commentaries are worth listening to. As I mentioned above, the making-of featurette contains a pretty good wealth of information about The Princess and the Warrior, going beyond the usual fluff pieces normally included on DVD's. There are numerous deleted scenes that add a bit of insight into a few of the characters, most notably Bodo, though I can see why they were deleted. The special features are rounded out with the standard filmographies and theatrical trailers as well as an at-best mediocre music video.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Someone hoping for a repeat of the fast pace of Run Lola Run might be in for a bit of a letdown when viewing The Princess and the Warrior, which lacks the sort of free-wheeling seat-of-your-pants style of Run, Lola, Run. The Princess and the Warrior is a much longer and denser film, moving with a deliberate gait rather than an all-out sprint to the end. This is not in any way to say that it's any less poignant or thought provoking; far from it. I just wanted to make sure that everyone realized that while the messages and themes are similar the presentations are as different as night and day.
While The Princess and the Warrior lacks the frenetic pacing of Run, Lola, Run, it's a far more mature and thought-provoking film, saying things that Lola only dreamed of. This is a terrific DVD courtesy of Columbia TriStar (something I haven't said too often). I definitely recommend this film and would certainly encourage you to check out Run Lola Run if you haven't already.
For fun you may notice casual references to Run Lola Run, notably with Sissi repeating the dialogue "zwanzig minuten" throughout the film. This would refer to the twenty minutes within which Run Lola Run takes place.
The Princess and the Warrior is found not guilty of all charges and is hereby free to go.
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