- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

One-half star

The German romantic-criminal-supernatural fable "The Princess and the Warrior," booked exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle, is a stupefying doozy of a snag in the string of quality foreign-language movies that have headed our way.
Sissi and Bodo are the baby-talk names of the principal characters, a naive nurse played by Franka Potente and a brooding felon played by Benno Furmann. The film is a reunion vehicle for writer-director Tom Tykwer and Miss Potente. She played the title character in "Run, Lola, Run," the chase thriller that became an international hit for Mr. Tykwer three years ago.
In "Princess," Mr. Tykwer flirts with an epic running time (130 minutes, feeling closer to 230) while playing brutishly coy matchmaker for Sissi and Bodo, whose legend is designed to come full circle pictorially — it starts with a shot that approaches a lonely cottage on a sea cliff and ends with a shot that recedes from the same location.
Sissi works as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital; she is cherished by both colleagues and patients, who resemble the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" inmates. A patient named Otto seems especially dependent on Sissi's kindness.
While Sissi is established as an angel of mercy, Bodo is introduced as a possible angel of death. He is employed briefly as a mortician's assistant and seems especially stirred by one corpse, a mystery later resolved to the filmmaker's satisfaction. Bodo is on the run when he and Sissi cross paths. Unfortunately, she steps into the path of a speeding truck while Bodo is dashing in and around it to avoid capture.
He pauses to save her life, improvising a breathing tube and performing an emergency tracheotomy. Bodo sticks with Sissi as far as the emergency room, then vanishes. Two months later, she has recovered — and needs to find her rescuer. She tracks him to a hilltop shack that he shares with an older brother, Walter (Joachim Krol). The pilgrim is rudely evicted, twice.
Unlike Sissi, we have access to some of Bodo's private torment. We know he is subject to nightmares and sometimes tries to scald his face on a furnace. Coincidence intrudes again: Sissi happens to walk into the bank where Walter is employed as a vault clerk — and where he plans a tunneling caper with Bodo as his accomplice. She arrives just in time for the attempted robbery, which ends with Walter mortally wounded and Bodo in dire shape. Sissi gets him back through the tunnel and over the hills of Wuppertal to relative safety: her place of employment, where chances are pretty good that he could pass as a patient.
What next? Mr. Tykwer makes a suitably lunatic case for Sissi and Bodo as destiny's reclamation projects by engineering a great escape from the asylum, punctuated by a "Thelma & Louise" leap of faith and enhanced by a hallucinatory side trip that requires Bodo to separate from his haunted self in order to liberate his Sissi-fortified self.
Visionary claptrap this titillating doesn't come along every week, so expect a feast of portentous nonsense while Mr. Tykwer spills his lovelorn and mystical guts.

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