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With: Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Joachim Krol, Marita Breuer, Jurgen Tarrach, Lars Rudolph
Written by: Tom Tykwer
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing images, language and some sexual content
Language: German with English subtitles
Running Time: 130
Date: 09/02/2000

The Princess and the Warrior (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lola Walks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like many other reviewers, Run Lola Run was one of my favorite films of 1999. I ranked it number two on my 10-best list for that year, and I've since seen the film five times. Last year, Winstar Cinema released Tykwer's previous film, the 1997 Winter Sleepers, which I also greatly admired. So needless to say, I was looking forward to director Tom Tykwer's new film The Princess and the Warrior, which played at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival.

Though the film is inevitably disappointing, I have to applaud Tykwer, because he seems to have intentionally set out to disappoint those who loved Lola. While Lola was a lean, 81-minute wonder that almost continuously moved at the pace of light, The Princess and the Warrior is a 130-minute, lumbering enigma, constantly shifting gears but never picking up speed.

Lola's Franka Potente stars as Sissi, a nurse working in an asylum, and she herself seems determined to shake off any reference to Lola. Potente now sports a short, flat blond 'do, a spacey gaze in her eyes, and a shuffling walk, barely mobile at all. While out for a walk and some fresh air with one of her charges, a blind man, Potente saves him from a speeding truck and finds herself pinned by the same vehicle. A young man with intense eyes (Benno Furmann) crawls under the truck, performs an emergency tracheotomy, and sheds a tear as he gazes at her.

After she recovers, Sissi becomes obsessed with finding the young man, named Bodo, who turns out to be a bank robber planning One Last Big Score before leaving town. Sissi happens to find herself in the right bank at the wrong time and becomes involved in the botched robbery, forcing Bodo to hide out at Sissi's place of work: the asylum.

Tykwer often composes, or helps to compose, his own music, and this is one of the greatest assets of his films. His pulsing electronic scores help to build tension and suspense through their very nature. In Lola this worked brilliantly, with the music rising to a pounding crescendo, thumping in time to Lola's feet. But in Princess, we wait for the build to climax and pay off, and it never really does -- it just builds and builds slowly without ever seeming to finish. Still, the music does provide a delicious atmosphere to Tykwer's images, which I can safely say do not look like anyone else's.

Tykwer's camera deliberately tries to be where it ordinarily would not be found. It gets into characters' heads, it photographs their dreams, but it also gets back wide enough to get some perspective, showing how lonely and empty these people's lives are. And just when you think things can't get any slower, the camera swoops forward, capturing an image in its sights and latching onto it before anyone else can.

There's no question that Tykwer has technique. It's just that The Princess and the Warrior doesn't offer much of a story. It's very long and the end does not satisfactorily justify the means. Still, fans of style over content should find enough extraordinary images here to keep them happy.

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