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A Strategic Date With Destiny
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2001

   


    'The Princess and the Warrior' Run Sissi Run: Franka Potente stars in "The Princess and the Warrior."
(Sony Pictures Classics)
In this season of pure sensation, in which star power, connect-the-dots plotting and computer-generated imagery are the main draws, you have to applaud movies that don't strap your sensibilities to your seat like some demented dentist, hellbent on drilling you full of overblown action.

Even if, in the case of Tom Tykwer's "The Princess and the Warrior," the movie's more successful for the treatment of its subject, rather than the subject itself. In this German movie (original title: "Der Krieger und die Kaiserin"), texture and atmosphere outdo the actual story. And there's no discounting the engaging presence of Franka Potente, the cardiovascularly fit star of Tykwer's "Run Lola Run."

In "Princess," a modern-day fairy tale of a movie, she's almost unrecognizable as an innocent, trusting, laconic nurse named Sissi, who works with quiet dedication at the Birkenhof asylum.

In the kind of not-so-coincidental series of events that marks Tykwer's work, Sissi becomes the pedestrian victim in a nasty road accident. As she lies quivering and unable to breathe under the truck that hit her, a savior appears. Bodo (Benno Fuermann) is an ex-soldier, a drifter suffering from a traumatic past. And even though his actions indirectly caused the accident in the first place, Sissi is convinced he's her chosen one. After saving her life, he disappears. Who was he? She's desperate to know.

But after tracking him down, Sissi is met with hostility. Bodo, a dour, depressed individual who's in trouble with the law, wants no part of her mystical fantasy. Chance intervenes again, however, during a bank robbery, when Sissi finds herself in a position to return the favor. Both are uncomfortable with love, for different reasons, however. He's seen too much and she's seen too little.

As with the 1997 "Wintersleepers" and the 1998 "Run Lola Run," Tykwer is interested in the vagaries of destiny. The characters seem to be pawns on a fatalistic chessboard. After watching his films, you don't think of the emotional impact so much as the 50-odd moves that led to the ending. "The Princess and the Warrior" may not reach the high water mark of "Lola" or "Wintersleepers" but it moves with the same, alluring flow. And it's engaging to sit through a movie that deconstructs action elements – in this case, a bank robbery – and casts them in an entirely different light. Unlike Hollywood's heavy-hitting movies of the summer, you don't have any idea what's going to happen next. You're not caught in a movie, so much as a narrative stratagem.

THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR (R, 130 minutes)In German with subtitles. Contains disturbing images, language and some sexual content. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

 

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