Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (2000)

PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, THE (Krieger und die Kaiserin, Der)

(director/writer/music: Tom Tykwer; cinematographer: Frank Griebe; editor: Mathilde Bonnefoy; music: Johnny Kilmek Reinhold Heil; cast: Franka Potente (Sissi), Benno Fürmann (Bodo), Joachim Krol (Walter), Marita Breuer (Sissi’s mother), Jürgen Tarrach (Schmatt), Lars Rudolph (Steini), Melchior Beslon (Otto), Marita Breuer (Sissi’s Mother), Sybille J. Schedwill (Maria); Runtime: 130; Sony Pictures Classics; 2000-Ger.)

“If I could have found more about the human condition uncovered that was plausible, I would have been more receptive to the quirks in this film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tom Tykwer, the 36-year-old new generation German director, distinguishes himself by making another gimmicky technical film that is hip but dumb. This one, like his Run Lola Run, is beautifully photographed and is also addressed to the emotions rather than the intellect. But this one is more slow-paced and is without the frenetic cartoon-like energy of Lola. It is meant to be a fantasy story, an adult fairy-tale, covering the same themes Tykwer always covers — coincidence and chance. There were a few energized scenes that helped counter all the film’s phony looking atmospheric shots in a nuthouse and the artificial way it caught the mental patients interacting with the staff and amongst themselves. The clinic looked as if it were created by Actor’s Studio, and that it could have been the set of a Martin and Lewis comedy. If I could have found more about the human condition uncovered that was plausible, I would have been more receptive to the quirks in this film and its over-the-edge love story.

The princess in this tale is a timid blonde mental hospital nurse in her twenties, Sissi (Franka Potente), who has withdrawn from the world and lives at the hospital. She has an unfulfilling personal life as she dedicates herself to her patients and her fantasies. What goes for good patient care, can be viewed as a hand job she gives to a depressive sickie named Steini.

The film’s warrior is the 31-year-old Bodo (Benno Fürmann), a hard-luck loser, an ex-soldier who is now a petty criminal. He cries a lot and is angry at the world, especially since his wife died in a gasoline explosion he feels responsible for. Bodo is very close with his older brother Walter (Joachim Krol), a security guard in the bank at Wuppertal (the hometown of the director). Without his brother’s care, Bodo seems to be totally lost and befuddled. Bodo confides to Walter that he lost his job as a gravedigger after one day, because he was crying at the funeral. Walter tells him not to fret, I’ve planned a great robbery for you to participate in.

Bodo meets the princess when he unintentionally causes a truck to speed up while in the act of a crime and Sissi’s on the way to the bank to help her friend deal with some banking matter. She gets hit by the truck and is in a delirious semi-conscious state lying pinned under the truck, where she meets Bodo running away from the police. Bodo finds Sissi unable to breathe, so he reacts quickly and punctures her throat with his pocket-knife and, with a soda straw acting as a tube, infuses her with oxygen just as she is about to die. It’s declared a miracle rescue effort by the hospital, and after Sissi recovers in two months she dreams vividly of her mysterious Prince Charming saving her again from her dull life and desperately goes to track him down.

The surgical procedure was great filmmaking, as the scene was tense and seemed very realistic–it was the best thing about this film.

The remainder of the film is filled with clunky dialogue, contrived situations, uninteresting characters, annoying portrayals of the mentally ill, and a story that was beautiful to look at but the story itself was shallow. It was an overlong mess; its story was of questionable moral worth; and, it belabored its weak point about fate to a point where the film felt silly.

I never cared for either character and felt put off by all the attempts to force me to like two characters whom I thought were mentally impaired rather than romantic. The film ends on the note that I’m supposed to believe that everything worked out well for the couple after he robs a bank with Walter and his gunshop owner friend Schmatt, even though the robbery is botched and Sissi appears at the bank in the middle of the robbery to join them. And when Bodo is being hunted by the police, he hides by blending into the mental institution as a patient and then when the police close in on him the couple runs away to her friend’s isolated house along the seacoast. They will go on from there and supposedly live happily ever after. Bodo will now give in to Sissi’s romantic notions and stop trying to toss her love aside; he will also stop crying and become a new person with renewed confidence.

I just had an empty feeling after seeing this cotton candy film.


REVIEWED ON 11/25/2001 GRADE: C-