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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 87.42)
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital Surround
    English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • 5 Deleted scenes - plus 20 minute intro from director and editor
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - director and cast, director
  • Music video
  • Awards/Nominations
  • Web access

The Princess and the Warrior

Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 133 mins . MA15+ . NTSC


German director Tom Tykwer is probably best known to most as the man behind 1998’s remarkable adrenaline-fest Run Lola Run. But that undeniably dazzling piece of high-speed storytelling is actually quite atypical of the man’s work as a whole. He’d come to prominence internationally when his previous movie Wintersleepers, which was released in Australia after Run Lola Run, became a hit; it had little in common with its successor, and not even a local soundtrack album release could elevate it to the same level of attention.

But it’s this more cerebral, thoughtful kind of film that Tykwer does best, and this long-overdue DVD release of The Princess and the Warrior (or, as it’s known in its country of origin, Der Krieger und die Kaiserin) gives many more people a chance to wrap their heads around the unique combination of technical wizardry, visual poetry and emotive storytelling that is Tykwer’s specialty.

Psychiatric nurse Sissi (played by Lola star Franka Potente, this time minus the red wig) lives almost every minute of her life taking care of the patients at Birkenhof asylum, where she has developed a unique bond with each and every one of them - she is family to them, and vice versa. But when she heads out to the bank to pick up an item left to a friend by her late mother, Sissi’s life is changed forever. In an attempt to evade capture, petty thief and former soldier Bodo (Benno Fürmann, who also appeared with Potente in Anatomie, released on DVD by Columbia last year) causes an accident which leaves Sissi lying near death underneath a truck. Bodo saves her life, but from that point on Sissi cannot forget this mysterious man who brought her back from the brink. She tries to track him down to renew the bond she feels with him, but Bodo is hostile and carrying serious emotional scars; coincidence and fate, however, may yet play a hand in this story.

An almost dream-like reflection on the nature of chance and fate, The Princess and the Warrior offers many surprises along a journey that’s part existentialist musing and part lament for lost dreams. Tykwer’s sure hand guides the viewer along not only with the characters’ stories, but also with their emotions and inner selves. It’s not easy for a foreign language film to convey complex emotions to an English-speaking audience and make conceptual leaps without leaving many behind, but Tykwer’s expert at conveying his characters’ inner lives visually and via the extensive use of music (which, as with previous films, he co-writes with Australian-born Johnny Klimek and former Nena and Nina Hagen producer Reinhold Heil). For Run Lola Run the music also drove the emotions and pace of the film, but while there it was all pulsing sequencers and industrial noise, here the score is a nocturnal wash of gentle chords and bubbling melodies that seems to take Massive Attack’s Teardrop as a starting point and extrapolates from there.

Of course, the best visual technique and finest music in the world can’t make bad performances click with the audience, and that’s why the leads here are particularly remarkable. Potente’s ability to convey the inner turmoil of her character against the odds thrown up by the language barrier and simplistic subtitles is quite amazing to behold, and it’s she that keeps the story in razor-sharp focus even when the audience is required to take several very large leaps of faith.

The closing act does veer a little too far into heavy-handed symbolism for its own good, but oddly by the time we arrive there it seems utterly appropriate, a fitting coda to all that’s gone before. There’s no way this story could have been filmed in the US; indeed, there’s no way it could have worked with anyone but Tom Tykwer behind the camera. Run Lola Run may have been the film that put the man’s name firmly into the mind of film fans the world over, but The Princess and the Warrior proves that there’s more to this creative mind than quick cuts and extreme visuals.


Somewhat controversially, Columbia Tristar has released The Princess and the Warrior in Australia as a Region 4 NTSC disc, with the master sourced from their Latin American subsidiary (and still bearing the Latin-America-only copyright notices!) The reason for this is actually simple; this film is an independent production by Tykwer’s company X-Filme, and while it was released in Germany by Warner Home Video, the American and Australian rights were sold to Sony Pictures, who released it under their “Classics” art-house banner. What this means is that the only existing PAL DVD masters for the film are Warner-branded; the master produced for Sony Pictures Classics territories was, of course, NTSC. This left Columbia Tristar here in Australia with two options - re-author the disc for Australia, or go with a pre-existing master from the parent company. Not surprisingly, they opted for the latter choice; had they not, the title would very likely not have been released here at all. That said, there will be quite a few people who won’t be able to play this disc properly or at all; CTS has made the compatibility issue very clear on the front cover.

So what we have here is identical to the Region 1 release that US customers were given (with the added Latin American copyright notices, of course). On the positive side, that means the all-important music score plays at the correct pitch; on the negative side, it means we get the video transfer that Tykwer reportedly rejected for the European release. And it’s easy to see why - while this was obviously a perfectly nice video transfer, it’s been almost ruined by incredibly intrusive digital sharpening (or “edge enhancement”), at times to the point of the image nearly breaking up as the encoder struggles to keep up. It’s a huge shame, as otherwise everything’s fine - colour saturation is rich and true, shadow detail is superb, and the movie’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio is produced faithfully (and of course is 16:9 enhanced). It’s not that it looks bad overall - quite the opposite - but the excessive digital tweaking occasionally draws way too much attention to itself.

The movie is spread over a jam-packed dual-layered DVD, with the layer change well placed and unobtrusive.

One thing worth pointing out - by default, subtitles are turned off when you start up this disc. You will need to head for the setup menu and turn them on if you don’t speak German.


Whatever reservations we may have had about the video transfer, the audio track simply can’t be faulted. This is a superbly enveloping state-of-the-art 5.1 surround mix that really does the movie justice. Dialogue is crisp and focussed, effects are seamlessly and naturally spread around the entire surround soundstage, and the all-important music score is flawlessly reproduced throughout. Tykwer - who knows the importance of sound in creating the most subtle of moods and emotions - never resorts to showy over-use of directional effects or the infamous LFE track, but rather uses those resources intelligently and to great effect. One of the best 5.1 sound mixes we’ve heard this year, it’s also offered in a two-channel matrixed surround version (which, curiously, is the default - remember to change this while you’re setting up the subtitles!)

Unlike the Run Lola Run DVD, there is no twangy American-English dub available. Thankfully.


A nice collection of extras is provided to supplement the movie, and while the German disc includes some different extras content (presumably in German), what we get here is (not surprisingly) the same as the version available in the US. Like all Sony discs it’s encoded with DVD Text, and as a US master disc it also has an encoded jacket picture image for Sony players (the image in this case being the US cover of the disc, very different to the one we get here).

Audio Commentaries: Not one, but TWO audio commentaries are provided for the film, both of them in English. The first features Tykwer by himself, discussing the making of the film and the intentions behind it in great detail. As Run Lola Run owners will know, Tykwer does entertaining and informative commentaries, and is extremely passionate and informed about his films. This one’s no exception. As a bonus, there’s a second commentary track where Tykwer is joined by actors Franka Potente and Benno Fürmann, who offer an actor’s perspective while Tykwer spurs them on. Both commentaries are excellent and will be greatly enjoyed by those who click with the film.

Making-of Documentary: Exactly as advertised, this 36 minute documentary is in German with English subtitles (this time turned on by default, oddly) and presented in anamorphic 16:9 format. There’s some fascinating insights from cast and crew as well as plenty of behind the scenes footage here, which makes a nice change from the usual Hollywood promo piffle.

Deleted Scenes: There are five excised scenes available here, some of which are fascinating and some which don’t quite fit with the mood of the finished film. Along with these (which total around 11 minutes’ worth) there’s a separate item titled “Introduction from Tom Tykwer”, which turns out to be a 20-minute discussion of these deletions from Tykwer along with editor Mathilde Bonnefoy, who really is being sold short by being left out of the menu title - she’s got plenty of insight of her own to contribute here.

Theatrical Trailers: American trailers for The Princess and the Warrior and Run Lola Run are supplied here, along with a seemingly random inclusion in the form of the trailer for Doug Liman’s American film Go. The latter has 5.1 audio as per modern Columbia Tristar US policy, while the others have matrixed surround sound.

Music Video: A video clip for the end title song from the film, featuring Skunk Anansie frontperson Skin’s unique voice and imposing persona.

Filmographies: The infamous “selected filmographies” only for Tykwer and Potente. Not worth the trouble.


A unique and entrancing film from one of the most exciting European filmmakers around at the moment, The Princess and the Warrior is a gentle yet powerful story told with incredible style and technical skill. Columbia’s DVD offers a decent enough transfer of the film, spoiled somewhat by edge enhancement and the need for the transfer to be in NTSC - but the audio is stunning and the extras well worth the time. Highly recommended for those bored with the same-old-same-old formula that Hollywood keeps serving up.

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      And I quote...
    "...a gentle yet powerful story told with incredible style and technical skill... a decent enough transfer of the film, spoiled somewhat by edge enhancement."
    - Anthony Horan
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