Thursday, September 27, 2001

Movie: The Princess and the Warrior

Posted on Thu, Sep 27, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 2.50

Writer/director Tom Tykwer's follow-up to "Run Lola Run" retains a few members of that film's cast, a smattering of its ancillary motifs (visual and philosophical) and not much else. Where Lola was a giddy ride in a motion simulator, "The Princess and the Warrior" is a slow trudge up a sadly shallow hill.

Star Franka Potente trades Lola's red fright wig for the lank blond mop of Sissi Schmidt, a nurse who lives and works in a German psychiatric hospital. Waifish and emotionally underdeveloped, she's nonetheless popular on the grounds, and one scene helps explain why: To aid a patient (Lars Rudolph, also a "Lola" holdover) in drifting off to sleep, she masturbates him underneath his bed sheets. Chalk one up for comprehensive care.

On a day trip into the city, Sissi suffers a near-fatal accident caused by Bodo (Benno Fürmann), a petty thief with a tragic personal history. In an indication of his basic good nature, Bodo saves Sissi's life, and she emerges from her 53 days of recuperation convinced that the two of them are linked in a romantic but unspecified way. A dogged pursuit follows.

By the time Tykwer gets around to revealing that there's an actual reason for Sissi's spacey mien and impetuous behavior (an insufficient reason, but a reason nonetheless), it's too little, too late. The film might clock in at half its inexcusable 130 minutes if not for its maker's mandate that even the simplest scene give rise to another that is its ironic mirror image.

The nimble cinematography of Frank Griebe prevents the action from ever coming to a complete standstill, but here's to your cast-iron stomach if you can remain seated through the gruesome interludes that litter the slim story. Bodo keeps the suffocating Sissi alive by cutting a hole in her throat and inserting a breathing straw, through which he also extracts gulps of her blood. A blind man attempts suicide by swallowing glass. A third vignette approaches unwatchability not out of grisliness but poor timing: In a lingering shot, two human beings hold hands as they jump from atop a building. Come back, "Spider-Man" trailer; all is forgiven.


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