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'The Princess And The Warrior'

'Run, Lola, Run' director scores again

Friday, August 17, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

If the critics were right that "Run, Lola, Run" (1998) was a triumph of style over substance, virtuosic German director Tom Tykwer has corrected the balance for maximum effect in his follow-up thriller, "The Princess and the Warrior."

 
    'THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR'

Rating: R for nudity and sexual themes

Starring: Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Joachim Krol

Director: Tom Tykwer

Critic's call:

 
 

It concerns no real princess or warrior but their modern-day continental equivalents in the form of shy nurse Sissi (Franka Potente -- of "Lola") and a small-time crook named Bodo (Benno Furmann). Considering that Tykwer's interest is psychology as much as drama, it's fitting that Sissi is a psychiatric nurse, who lives in the mental hospital where she works.

The gentle darling of her crazy patients, Sissi is as sheltered and protected from the outside world as they are -- until she is hit and pinned beneath a truck in an awful accident. There, unable to move or breathe, her fate and life cross paths with Bodo, who is fleeing from a petty crime but takes time to stop, save her life with an on-the-spot tracheotomy -- and then disappear.

This action and these intersections take place in the first breathless 20 minutes, and they're only the beginning of an eerie combination of mystery and romance. Haunted by her vanished hero, Sissi sets to finding him, but is repeatedly rejected when she does.

Turns out, Bodo is more than a little psychically damaged himself -- haunted by the violent death of his wife and guarded by his brother Walter (Joachim Krol), who is also his partner in crime: They are planning a major bank heist in which destiny ordains -- as it so often does! -- that she'll become a criminal as well as romantic accomplice.

The tale itself is tense and intriguing, but even more so are the interpersonal relationships. In the psychiatric hospital, angelic Sissi accommodates her patients in every way -- be their needs masturbatory or a slow dance to Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry."

Bodo is a crook full of real and potential violence, but one who cries constantly and involuntarily at every real and potential tragedy of the moment.

A warning -- the emergency tracheotomy scene early on is extremely realistic and definitely not for the squeamish.

The brilliant frame compositions, cinematography, and supremely artistic editing, on the other hand, are for all film connoisseurs -- and are Tykwer's trademarks as a virtuoso. Potente, Furmann and Krol turn in soulful, nuanced performances to match. The powerful musical score is to die for.

Bodo flies not just over but right into Sissi's nest: Are they a real or just a potential Bonnie & Clyde? Sissi is searching for her hero-lover but unwittingly for herself, too.

She finds both in the end, and we find a spectacularly satisfying motion picture.

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