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The Princess and the Warrior

Review Written by: Joe Earp
Film: F
Video/Audio/Extras: B+/B+/A-

Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Written by: Tom Tykwer
Produced by: Stefan Arndt, Katja De Bock, Gebhard Henke and Maria Kopf
Starring: Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Joachim Krol, Lars Rudolph, Melchior Beslon, Ludger Pistor
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Skip it

Tom Twyker has been called the most promising German filmmaker since Rainer Werner Fassbinder and it's not hard to see why. His three masterpieces Run Lola Run, Winter Sleepers and Heaven are brimming with emotional energy and breathtakingly beautiful imagery. Twyker is one of those very special directors who can make a film look amazing while never forgetting about his characters or storylines.

It's such a shame then that The Princess and the Warrior is quite so terrible. Starring Franka Potente (Twyker's girlfriend during production), The Princess and the Warrior charts the eye-opening journey of Sissi, a young nurse working in a mental hospital. As the film begins she is trapped by her own bland way of life. She not only works in the hospital, she lives there too in a small cabin of her own on the grounds. Suddenly however, Sissi becomes involved in a terrible car accident where she is saved by a suicidal bank-robber who is haunted by his own personal demons.

If the story sounds like a melodrama, that's probably because it is. Although the heightened sense of emotion worked well in Run Lola Run, here Twyker tries to overcomplicate his story in an attempt maybe to rebuke those critics who call his work style over substance. However, his hectic style doesn't work well enough for such a jumbled drama. Instead of centring on a single character, Twyker throws dozens into your face, literally assaulting you with backstory after backstory after backstory. Worst of all, Twyker pretends all of these characters are interconnected somehow, a la Magnolia. Whereas P.T. Anderson's extraordinary film managed to bring all the central protagonists together in an emotionally draining finale, Twyker hurtles through the film at a breakneck speed, forgetting about characters almost instantly. For example, one of the films more interesting protagonists, a blind mental patient who adores Sissi, is forgotten halfway through the film. Not only that, he is also badly wounded in his final scene. And yet by the film's finale he has been almost completely forgotten, discarded in favour of a new, more 'interesting' character. This could be interpreted as a fault on Sissi's part: she is so caught up in the world of the suicidal bank robber (her lover) that she shuns the mental patients she once cared for so deeply. However even if it was Twyker's decision to make Sissi a very selfish character, it was definitely a bad one. What does having an egotistical central character actually do? In films like Hairspray or Raging Bull the device of a selfish persona worked brilliantly. In both movies the characters really care about nothing but themselves and as a result all other characters are only fire for the flames of their ego. However again, Twyker doesn't really seem to know what he's doing. He simply jumps to the next scene, the next device, the next character without taking a breath.

On the plus side however, the images are often stunningly beautiful. One prolonged bank heist is almost mythological in the intensity of its shots. However, this really is one of those glossy, empty films that has nothing at all to say.

The special features on the disc I watched were quite satisfactory. The always intelligent Twyker provides a wonderful audio commentary, gleefully quoting from his favourite movie (Halloween) as he tells long and involved stories about life behind the camera. There is also a 'making of', mainly comprised of interviews with Twyker in which he explains that most of his ideas come from dreams. This could be the key to Twyker's cinema and may possibly explain why The Princess and the Warrior is so glossy and in sequential. Dreams are usually fuelled by images, not characters or storylines.

In conclusion, The Princess and the Warrior is a film you can definitely skip. Instead, try to hunt down a copy of Twyker's more successful movies: art house classics like Heaven or Winter Sleepers.

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