Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Tom Tykwer’s mathematically elegant film The Princess and the Warrior hangs a heavy load of metaphysical baggage on the story of a nurse in a mental hospital whose life is miraculously saved by a criminal on the lam. Shy, beautiful Sissi, while wending her way to the bank one afternoon on the streets of Wuppertal, is hit by a truck. As it turns out, Bodo, the handsome stranger who saves her, has been planning to rob the same bank that was her destination.
Ducking under the vehicle, he discovers Sissi unable to breathe, punctures her throat and, with an improvised tube, infuses her with oxygen just as she is about to suffocate. This heart-stopping sequence, filmed from Sissi’s point of view, goes about as far as any movie could in capturing the suspended, eerily silent stop-time of a desperate life-and-death moment.
It’s little wonder that Sissi, unable to speak and gazing desperately into Bodo’s eyes, sees him not only as her potential savior but also as her romantic destiny should she survive. As this metaphysical fairy tale reiterates, as if setting out to prove an elaborate equation, her intuition is correct. Before the movie is over, the coincidences surrounding Bodo’s appearance in her life have multiplied into an extraordinary chain of connection involving everyone from the mental patients Sissi cares for to the friend who sent her a letter with instructions to be followed once she reached the bank.
Deeply whimsical beneath its poker face, The Princess and the Warrior has the structure of an elaborate mind-teasing puzzle. As it widens its circles of connection, it supposes that a force that could only be called destiny is determining the characters’ lives. Around this central premise, the film spins other, weirder notions. What if your worst nightmare drifted into someone else’s mind and incited an act of violence? Might your most excruciating personal trauma be a contagious infection that you caught from someone else? What special knowledge do the clinically insane have of such crossed mental wiring and its relation to fate? ...
The Princess and the Warrioris a thematic hybrid of the German director’s two previous films, the peppy arthouse hit Run Lola Run and the sober, downbeat Winter Sleepers. In many ways, the new movie is a dreamy, slow-motion rerun of Lola. — Stephen Holden, NY Times, 22/6/01