When famous porn star Christina Christensen dies, her brother August arrives on the scene to take custody of her five-year-old daughter, Mia. August, a priest, quickly find that the little girl has been deeply and cruelly affected by her association with the seedy world of pornography and so he begins a violent crusade of vengeance to wipe all traces of his sister’s career from the face of the Earth. His main target is Charlie, the nebulous porn king and lover of Christina, the man responsible for setting her on the path to notoriety.
Anders Morgenthaler’s debut film is a strong piece in every sense of the word. It has a singular vision, it does not shirk away from the darkness and it features superbly stylish animation blended with live-action footage. Plotwise, it is pretty adherent to the conventions of the revenge flick, but this is a movie far more interested in matters of theme and tone.
Often described as an anti-porn film, in fact Princess has only one criticism of that world – that it is no place for children. The piece as a whole is more anti-revenge, as so many vengeance movies tend to be. The first casualty of August’s crusade is, of course, himself as he puts aside all mercy and mows down even those on the periphery of the industry he sees as having claimed his sister and her daughter.
In one startling sequence, as August guns down nameless henchmen, we see the impact of this on lives. As he shoots one, we cut to a photo of the man on a family mantelpiece suddenly being sprayed with blood. Another death is followed immediately by a shot of a wife asleep in bed as the empty space beside her is filled with a dark patch of blood.
The most affecting aspects of the film are in its portrayal of young Mia. She is a damaged girl, brought up to believe certain behaviours are normal and accepted. When she meets a group of children playing house, they explain to her they already have a Mummy and a Daddy and a Baby. So Mia suggests she plays the ‘Whore’, since they do not appear to have one of those. Similarly, when August suggests it is bath time and little Mia reaches for his zipper, the extent of her upbringing becomes all too apparent.
The aesthetics of Princess are a clever blend of live action and animated material. Christina is exclusively portrayed in real life, typically through August’s home video collection. The grainy images show how she is now only a memory, dead before the story begins. The animation is used for the bulk of August’s journey through this often ugly world, whilst allowing more fantastical elements of a child’s point of view to be realised like Mia ‘s sentient teddy bear or when the seagull light decorations in her room take flight.
Princess is a superbly designed film, although beneath the surface trappings lies a fairly familiar story – a killer twist aside. Morgenthaler has produced a unique piece that is evidence of a vital new talent. This is proof that animation for an adult audience is not purely the domain of South-East Asia.
DIRECTOR(S): Anders Morgenthaler | COUNTRY: Denmark | YEAR 2006 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 | REGION: 4 / PAL | DISCS: 1