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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/16/02

The Princess and the Warrior
(aka Der Krieger und dir Kaiserin)

2001 (2002) - Columbia TriStar

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Princess and the Warrior Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B

Specs and Features
133 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, English-language audio commentary with director Tom Tykwer, second English-language audio commentary with director Tom Tykwer and actors Franka Potente and Benno Fürmann, The Making of The Princess and the Warrior featurette, editing featurette, five deleted scenes, music video for You Can't Find Peace by Skin, two selected filmographies, three theatrical trailers, DVD-ROM weblink to the film's website, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: German (DD 5.1 & 2.0) subtitles: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, Closed Captioned

A few years ago, I was exposed to the world of the non-English language film - films that force you to read subtitles, while simultaneously exploring ideas that Hollywood is too afraid to touch. For a film lover who would never think of watching a foreign film just a few years ago, I made a list of my favorite ten films from 2001, and three of which are foreign: Amelie, No Man's Land and The Princess and the Warrior, a German film that defies genre lines to bring an interesting study of two characters trapped, or perhaps guided, by destiny.

Sissi (Franka Potente) is a nurse at a mental hospital, who is so dedicated to her work that she has no life outside of it. Bodo (Benno Fürmann) is a career criminal who's got a bit of a shady past. With pretty much nothing in common, they are both thrown together when she is pinned underneath a truck at a traffic accident, and he goes to hide under that said truck to avoid being arrested by the police after a robbery. He escorts her in the ambulance to a hospital, which both helps her and helps him escape from the police. When she wakes up from passing out, she finds that he is missing and is determined to find him. She's convinced that he his her fated love. Using what little resources she has, including a semi-physic blind friend, she's determined to find Bodo and return the favor that he gave her. She wants to save him.

If this sounds like a bad romantic drama premise, it's just the first way that director Tom Tykwer breaks genre lines. He uses that backstory to explore Bodo's plans for a bank heist, while the eventual bank heist is used as the backdrop from Sissi's leap of faith. This is probably one of the hardest films to review, because it's not an easy film to define. Tykwer gives a double meaning to everything in the film, and the film breaks the normal definitions of genre.

Tykwer, who previously directed Run Lola Run, loves these characters, and the entire film is more about their emotions and feelings than the actual actions taking place on screen. A bungled robbery is seen through Bodo's fearful despair. A celebration party for Sissi's recovery is more about her unhappiness with going back to her old life. Potente and Fürmann give very strong performances as characters that don't say much to begin with, and say even less when they are with each other. Potente's character is mainly filled with fear and sorrow, and it gives both the character and the actress a haunting beauty. While Fürmann is also filled with fear and sorrow, it's fed more through anger than Sissi's.

A film this ambitious and soulful isn't without its problems. The Princess and the Warrior is over two hours long, and it feels a bit longer than that length. Every element and action intertwines, but there are a few elements that could have probably been omitted. And the film is a little more abstract than as it reads in this review, so if you don't have the patience to sit through something that requires a bit more attention, I'd probably hold off. Still, The Princess and the Warrior holds up much less as a story, than a study of two lost souls, or rather soulless people looking for happiness or something to believe in. And I think they find that something in each other.

Now I get to the disc review. Overall, The Princess and the Warrior is one of my favorite DVDs. First of all, the video transfer is really clear. The film's filtered colors are well represented, and I detected no grain. The blacks could have been a bit deeper, and there were halos from edge enhancement. But with no compression artifacts, I thought this was a nice transfer. The audio was equally good. It's not an aggressive 5.1 track, but the surrounds are subtle, with occasional crowd and traffic noise used in the rear channels. And the haunting score is mixed to use the rears as well.

The extras are nothing groundbreaking, but they are in depth and well produced nonetheless. First up are the TWO screen-specific audio commentaries. The first is a solo track with director Tom Tykwer. As the film's writer and director, Tykwer offers insightful comments into the film, but I found it just a bit dry. A little more entertaining, but just as insightful, is the second commentary where Franka Potente and Benno Fürmann join Tykwer. I should note now that both commentaries are in English, and all three speak English surprisingly well. Franka's comments seem to be mainly about the research she's made while doing the role and the emotional state of the characters, while Benno's are a little more production oriented, focusing on what happened the day of shooting a particular scene. Also amusing on the track, there are a few instances where one of the commentators will start talking in German, quickly release it, and go back to English embarrassed. And as a side note, Franka plays around with Benno, when his character has a nude scene. I've just always wanted to hear the actor's comment on the on-screen nudity in any film, which just about never happens.

The behind-the-scenes featurette runs about thirty-five minutes and is well produced. There are interviews with Tykwer, Potente, Fürmann, producer Maria Köpf and cinematographer Frank Griebe, among others. Each interviewee brings some good insight to the film and their participation with it. It's your normal back-patting "Oh, he did SUCH a great job" kind of piece, but there's some great material on the research done to accurately portray mental illness. A big plus, it's in anamorphic widescreen English subtitles are included).

There are about eleven minutes of deleted scenes, split across five scenes that I think add to the film, but were not necessary (and I think it's better to have not used them in the final film for the reason of pacing). To supplement these deleted scenes, you get a twenty-minute featurette with Tykwer and editor Mathilde Bonnefoy, which explains the difficulty editing the film and some of the choices they made. As one of the film's strengths was it's editing (despite pacing problems), this was very insightful. Also, these are presented in anamorphic widescreen (again, English subtitles are included).

There's a music video of the song You Can't Find Peace, which is featured in the film. The video, which is your normal "singer singing inter-cut with film clips" has an odd eerie feeling, and the song is a strange bit of Euro ambient pop that works well with the film's tone. Trailers for The Princess and the Warrior, as well as Run Lola Run and Go, are here as well. Princess and the Warrior and Run Lola Run trailers are in full-frame, while Go is in non-anamorphic widescreen. Finally, selected filmographies of Tykwer and Potente are also provided.

Though slowly paced, The Princess and the Warrior is a pretty engrossing film about destiny, redemption, empathy and emotion. It's well produced, and it lends itself well to DVD. Definitely worth a look.

Graham Greenlee
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