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Film Review for August 3rd
The Princess And The Warrior
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

In the opening minutes of "The Princess And The Warrior" a young woman plucks an ice cube from a bowl and holds it against her neck. Her free arm rests on the forearm of the young man sitting beside her. "Do you feel it" she asks, as his free hand reads the flesh on her arm, as if the goose bumps printed there were braille. Indeed, before the scene is over, we learn that the young man, Otto, is blind. It's a quiet and remarkable moment in a very remarkable film.

Direstor Tom Tykwer is best known for "Run Lola Run", a high octane meditation on the role of chance in our lives. I admired Tykwer's narrative skills in "Lola", and it wasn't the frenetic pacing of its three short acts that bothered me. It was that "Lola" seemed to diminish the consequences of 'character' in our lives. As I read it, Tykver seemed to be saying that, as often as not, random collisions of small events determine the outcome of life-sized situations. That notion, however cleverly articulated, leaves me cold.
 
But if "Lola" makes an artful case for chance, Tykwer's new film makes an even more artful case for the role of destiny in the unfolding of our lives. And destiny, surely, is at the far end of any continuum on which we might place such notions as chance and randomness, fate and destiny. "The Princess And The Warrior" features Franka Potente, of "Lola" fame, in the role of Sissi, a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. We learn early in the movie that the men in her ward are very attracted to her. And that she can be counted upon to stretch the limits of duty when ministering to their needs. Sissi leads a sheltered existence at the asylum, but one day, a stroll to the bank to do a favor for a friend changes her life forever. Fate, in the form of a large red truck, literally knocks her off her feet. 
 
Enter Bodo, a brooding fellow played by Benno Furmann. Bodo, unwittingly the cause of the 'accident', and unaware that there is a victim, crawls under the truck seeking refuge from pursuers. There he encounters Sissi, in the throes of asphyxiation. Without hesitation he proceeds to rescue her. In a scene that many of the critics are marveling at, Bodo temporarily transubstantiates into a beneficent dracula. And, having restored to Sissi the breath he inadvertantly took away, Bodo vanishes into the light. 
 
This happens early in the film, so I'm not spoiling much for you. The rest of the intricate plot involves Sissi's dogged pursuit of her saviour. Count the number of times Sissi gets decked in the course of her mission.
Note who plays a great old Brenda Lee song early in the film, and the name of the song. Listen for the sound wet grass makes as it becomes a pillow for a star gazing Sissi. There are so many extraordinary cinema moments in "The Princess And The Warrior" that to give a few away probably wouldn't hurt, but I won't. If you love surprises at the movies as much as I do, don't miss Tom Tykwer's latest exploration of big ideas. At 36, he's already a master story-teller. Dare we anticipate anything this fine from him again. I'll tempt the fates and say - probably.
 
Happy to be sitting in for The Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.

Copyright Dennis Morton 2001