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Johanna ter Steege
Due to his sister's death, the 32 year old August returns and consequently abandons his profession as a missionary priest. His beloved sister Christina, who went from greatness to decay as the famous porn-star The Princess, is dead after years of drug abuse. She leaves behind her 5-year old daughter Mia, whom August feels obliged to take care of. Weighed down by grief and guilt he decides to revenge the dead of Christina - and takes Mia on a mission to destroy all existing pornographic material featuring The Princess. The mission escalates into a brutal and violent rout, where August is desperately trying to protect the only precious thing in his life, Mia, why he is forced to make a fatal decision. Written by
Martin Stoltenborg Christensen
A priest turned vigilante enters the underground world of the Swedish porn industry to avenge his murdered sister and eradicate evidence of her pornographic career.
Princess was the most anticipated film of the Midnight Madness program this year at TIFF for me after I heard the basic premise of the film and was surprised to learn that a story of that nature would be told in an animated feature. It turned out to be a very hardcore noir revenge tale that was gritty as hell and dealt with some very sensitive material. I wish there was some official website/trailer, or even some images I could find on the net from this movie but I can't seem to much at all. To compare it to other works I guess the movie felt to me like it had certain elements from films like Taxi Driver, Leon: The Professional, and a load of other film noir just set in a more underground modern day euro trash setting.
The story follows a man named August, a priest in the opening of the film, who finally tracks down his pregnant sister, whom he discovers in a very shocking scene engaged with several men in a gang bang. The images of that and the character's reaction, framed in an intense close up of his quivering blue eyes that look like they could crack at any moment, pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Years later, August's sister, who we learn was a renowned porn star named Princess, is found murdered, and her daughter now orphaned. August must now take his sister's daughter Mia under his care, while slowly discovering the deep trauma this child has suffered living under such a degrading, sexually oppressive environment. The connection these two characters form is what's most powerful about this movie, as they both endure the loss of a sister/mother who fell into such a disgusting, dangerous world, and Mia who is probably only about 5-8 years old slowly learns who her mother really was.
What definitely carries the film though is August's transformation from rational, peaceful man and caring figure into an infuriated angel of death to those responsible for killing his sister and continuing to make money from her Adult Video sales and merchandise, exploiting her even in death, while trying to eliminate all the existing pornographic material of his sister. You even begin to see symbolic traces of religious empowerment in August's extreme actions later on in the film. This man reaches such a breaking point that when he finally unleashes the results will leave you speechless. The level of violence in this film is surprising at times, though never becomes too indulgent and over the top, as brutality almost seems quite necessary and appropriate at times given the subject matter and themes of the film. This is a man who enters a world that completely contradicts everything he holds to be morally right and pure, a world that destroyed his only sister, and whom he is somewhat responsible for plunging her into as you'll learn later on in the film. I wish i could rant on more about the animation and direction in it too. Really, the animated medium this story reaches it's audience is so effectively used, every transition and image is so well executed, while the animation is quite simplistic yet very well suited to the gritty places and faces we're introduced to. 20% of the film is actually live action camcorder footage which appears as glimpses into the character's pasts, as August used to record everything on his video camera, though we never actually see him in any of these live action flashbacks. There is so much beauty to this film despite much of it's vile content; the settings, depth of character & expression, atmosphere, colors and soundtrack all create such a wonderfully hypnotic visual experience and a film that I eagerly await to see again. I doubt it'll ever get much of a theatrical release given the level of violence and sexuality in it, especially when dealing with a small child, but lets hope there'll be more buzz around Princess in the future.
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