Anders Morgenthaler‘s first feature successfully fuses animation with a little live action to create an aesthetically superb film with a baffling message. The technique of merging visual formats is innovative and effective. Morgenthaler had used it in his graduation film Araki – The Killing of a Japanese Photographer, which ensures a clear stylistic continuity in the director’s work. Heavily influenced by animé, the gorgeous visual style of Princess can also be attributed to lead production designer Rune Fisker.
August, the film’s protagonist, is a young man of the cloth. Upon the death of his porn-star sister, August recovers Mia, his abused and neglected five-year-old niece, and she joins him on a crusade of bloody revenge against every man, woman and building involved in the Danish sex industry.
‘Fuck porno’, says Morgenthaler in his director’s statement, and this is clearly intended to be a political work. The pornography industry of Denmark is no doubt as seedy and savage as it is portrayed, and the film’s anti-porn sentiments are obvious. Morgenthaler’s actual motivations and intentions, however, are far from clear, leaving the viewer in the dark as to what the film is actually trying to say.
August’s mission is overtly Christian and God literally lights the way for his merciless, blood-drenched massacre at certain points. August and Mia hold nothing back during their killing spree. August arranges for Mia (bearing in mind that the character is five years old) to use a crow bar to hack away the genitals and then the skull of her former abuser. This level of violence, though animated, is strongly reminiscent of Irréversible – it is nauseating and hard to watch. Just because Tarantino made animé í¼ber-violence cool in his animated flashback in Kill Bill, an entire movie in the same style isn’t any less vacuous.
Understandably, Morgenthaler has aggressive views about porn and what better way to vent these than in the same medium he abhors; however, the extreme violence accompanied by the concept that modern Christian values would support this type of vengeance is preposterous. The notion that porn is so evil that it can only be conquered by psychotic waves of mass slaughter is horrible, it makes no sense and if anything makes Morgenthaler’s anti-porn sentiments ridiculous. His hero comes out far worse than the much loathed sex industry.
There’s a pretentious naivety about this muddled message: The sex industry is bad, whilst grotesque violence is cool. For Morgenthaler, porn means distance whilst eroticism means intimacy. Without wishing to defend the undoubtedly nasty industry that is porn, it seems quite obvious from the vastness of it, its diversity as a ‘genre’ and its overwhelming and perpetual popularity that the debate isn’t so black and white. I’m sure that bad outweighs the good when it comes to porn but the influences of Michael Winner and Lars Von Trier (the film was produced by his company Zentropa) have led to a film that is more polemic than political.
It might simply come down to Morgenthaler being by his own description a ‘neo-purist’, unlike the majority of his audience, this reviewer included. That said, the film is so thought-provoking, so visually impressive, that it comes highly recommended. If anything, it is sure to elicit a strong response, which is more than can be said about most current films.
Read the interview with Anders Morgenthaler