Viking Night:
The Princess and the Warrior

By Bruce Hall

March 6, 2012

Please don't let me die like in that Bourne movie.

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If you've never seen The Princess and the Warrior, no doubt the title is going to conjure up all sorts of prefab images in your advertising ravaged, media programmed mind. It's possible you're thinking about a lavishly animated Disney film jam packed with show tunes and adorable talking squirrels. It's just as likely you're thinking of something with vampires on motorcycles with ninja swords and machine guns. Whatever you thought, I'm fairly sure you didn't guess "a brooding, surreal rumination on fate and coincidence from the country that gave us moveable type, the autobahn and delicious Fanta!"

More specifically, those who belong to the Cult of Franka Potente will recognize this film as the more cerebral cousin to Run Lola Run - her previous collaboration with director Tom Tykwer . But in place of the slash and dash video game inspired exhibitionism of Lola, The Princess and the Warrior is a slow burn, more reminiscent of Tykwer's most significant early film, Winter Sleepers - meaning it's a voyeuristic look into the lives of strangers who come to know each other through a profoundly tragic chain of coincidence.

It's also the kind of film that doesn't give a crap if you're paying attention. It will occasionally confuse and frustrate you. It will openly dare your mind to wander. But eventually it will reward you for your patience - as long as you're equal parts cockeyed optimist who gushes hope in the face of misery, and miserable cynic who sees only irony in death.


Oh, Death. You so crazy. And speaking of crazy, The Princess and the Warrior is principally centered around two characters.

The first is Sissi Schmidt (Potente, in one of her best early roles), a shy young girl with an awkward haircut who works in a mental ward. Sissi is a dedicated caregiver who suffers for her craft and therefore shares a deep emotional bond with both her colleagues and patients. And boy, are those patients a motley bunch; and their level of not-okayness covers a relatively wide spectrum. There's Molke, who's vocabulary consists entirely of the words "Sissi," "fucking" and "shit." There's Werner - a plump, middle aged wallflower who is filled with compassion AND spontaneous fits of face punching rage.

And of course there's Steini, who looks like Steve Buscemi and Sonic the Hedgehog had a son. He also insists on we say..."physically serviced" by Sissi each night before he will sleep.

It's all in the life of a Princess for Sissi, who handles it with calm professionalism and maternal grace. Still, you can't help but wonder where the upside is when half your friends are psychiatrists, and the other half are your patients. And those patients are never going to get better; they're just going to grow old and die in front of you. So when you think about it, you don't work in a hospital so much as you work in a hospice full of futility.

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