From Tom Tykwer, the director of “Run Lola Run” comes a new film. However, do not go into “The Princess and the Warrior” expecting the frenzied action and pumping techno music of “Lola”. This is not the same kind of crowd-pleasing film that “Lola” was. In many ways “The Princess and the Warrior” is a step up. It presents a slightly matured filmmaker in Tom Tykwer and a much more nuanced performance from Franka Potente. This duo can do astonishing things with film.
Franka is an amazing screen presence, every second she’s on screen your eyes gravitate her way. That was true for “Lola” and it is even more apparent here. She does not have the blazing red hair and frantic action to accompany her, she needs to carry this toned down film in near silence at times. She does so impeccably.
Franka is Sissi, a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. The patients treat Sissi like a mother, a sister or a girlfriend depending on their status and situation. Sissi has lived and worked in the hospital her entire life. Sissi is more at home here than anywhere else. The patients are her friends and family (one literally). She is uncomfortable with people outside of its walls. A shy and demure person, she shuffles about like she’s sleepwalking.
In the only “Lola” like moment of the film, Bodo runs from some gas station employees who he has just ripped off. Bodo dashes through the streets and traffic, finally grabbing on to the back of a moving truck escaping his pursuers. The driver distracted by Bodo hanging from the his truck, fails to notice a red light and Sissi in the crosswalk. Sissi pushes her blind companion out of the way in the nick of time, but she gets hit and ends up under the truck.
Bodo unaware of the accident, circles back a minute later to find Sissi lying under the truck choking to death. He climbs under the hulking beast determined to help the dying girl. With his military training he performs an emergency tracheotomy with his pocket knife and a plastic straw. Under less talented hands this scene may have seemed funny, and as cliche’ as it may sound, it just plain works. This gory event is breathtaking. Bodo with tears streaming down his face gazes into Sissi’s eyes as he sucks the blood out of her throat.
Yet unknown in America, Benno Furmann plays Bodo as if pins are stuck in his heart. It’s a wonderful performance that is beneficial to a film entirely reliant on its characters.
Thanks to Bodo’s quick action, Sissi is saved from an almost certain death. It is of course a life changing experience for Sissi and she now finally has an interest outside of the hospital. Bodo has disappeared, leaving only his jacket button behind. Sissi is wholly determined to find her savior. Once found, Bodo does not fall instantly into her arms like an old lover. These two messed up people don’t know what to think of each other. The film’s pace slows down quite a bit as we spend time getting to know these mentally unstable characters and as they get to know themselves.
Later in the film there is another tired scenario, the bank heist. But again thanks to his superior filmmaking, Tykwer makes this movie standard seem fresh. The robbery is more inventive than most we’ve seen and because we care so much about the people involved it makes it much tougher to watch when things take a wrong turn. This not being a Hollywoodproduction, we’re not quite sure where Sissi and Bodo are going to end up next. I can tell you it is quite satisfying.
“The Princess and the Warrior” is larger in scope than “Run Lola Run” was. Similar themes of fate and coincidence run through both. Though “Princess” is not as easy or fun of a film to watch, a fan of one should be a fan of the other.
Tom Tywker moves on to direct Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Heaven”, much in the same way that Spielberg directed Kubrick’s “A.I.”. It’s an ambitious project to say the least, and there are two more films, “Purgatory” and “Hell”, if the first is successful. (Kieslowski loved to work in series: “Blue, White, Red” and “Decalogue”) I think Tywker is the right man for the job and I can’t wait to see the results. Let’s just hope he brings along his muse, Franka.