Princess (2006)
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Review Date: May 24, 2006
Director: Anders Morgenthaler
Writer: Anders Morgenthaler, Mette Heeno
Producers: Sarita Christensen
Thure Lindhardt
Stine Fischer Christensen
Christian Tafdrup
A missionary priest returns home to take care of his sister’s 5-year old daughter, after his porn-actress sibling overdoses after years of drug abuse. Slowly but surely, the man starts to piece together the life of the poor kid, who seems to have been abused herself, along with his sister’s downward spiral into the world of smut. It isn’t long before his anger turns to violence and vengeance, as he pursues the man behind all of the sexual deviance. An adult anime ensues…
As seen at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival

Anyone who has been reading my reviews for any amount of time knows one thing that I appreciate in films more than any other element and that is originality. If you can create a movie that features a healthy helping of ambition, as opposed to the gaggle of rehashes being churned out of Hollywood these days, I’ll likely dig your film that much more, even if it’s not perfectly manufactured and contains elements that don’t work all that well. My feeling is that, “At least this person was trying something different, and for that alone, you gotta give ‘em some extra props.” Taking chances is risky, but without risk, we’d all be watching re-reruns for the rest of our lives. All that to say that the Danish anime flick PRINCESS features a decent amount of creativity, mixing its animated core, with about 20% real-life sequences. The way that the director set it up is that anytime someone pops a videotape into the VCR, or thinks back to a flashback, we see the actual actors playing out those roles. Quite effective in this film, especially since it deals with very dark and real subjects, including sexual abuse, deviance, the porn industry as a whole and even child abuse. Seeing those characters as “real people” in certain scenes brings the heart of the story home, even though we’re basically watching “cartoon people” for the majority of the movie. The lead character and the adorable 5-year old girl also have a nice rapport and you can’t help but fall in love with the child’s cuteness.

Where the movie suffers somewhat though is in its execution of plot, as the reality and well-developed relationship and background of the two lead characters (and their dead relative—his sister, her mom), is warped by a sense of over-the-top retribution, which certainly works on its own merits (cool and bloody-ass action sequences), but feels out of place and unbelievable here. For example, in one sequence, our Travis Bickle-esque character is surrounded by 6 people with guns pointed at him, and yet he’s able to fight them all off somehow. Again, it’s a great-looking scene but it felt phony in this environment, especially since the lead character isn’t a man of overpowering physique and is established to be a clergyman by trade. Suddenly he becomes an arms, demolition and fight expert?!? He also commits a boatload of felonies across the city, and yet nobody ever spots him anywhere, but worst of all is the fact that he’s doing all of that because he wants to protect the 5-year old child, right? Well, how about you not take her along to your killing sprees and warp her mind even more, genius? Or better yet, get rid of those tapes of her mother swallowing man-meat so that she doesn’t “stumble” across them in the apartment, and watch them herself…TWICE!

Plot inconsistencies aside, the film does include flashes of brilliance in both its presentation and characterizations, set in an extremely adult world of pornography and sexual decadence—although now that I think about it, we never really see any full-out nudity or sexual penetration, just glimpses and covered-up stuff. The film also ended on a somber note that I didn’t fully appreciate, as I would have preferred to have that feeling of redemption when all was said and done, but the final shot of the “real actors” together was an ideal cherry at the top of this very odd ride. Definitely not for those who prefer their animation in the vein of SHREK and TOY STORY, but if you’re into dark anime flicks with deep vengeful streaks, this one should be right up your alley.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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