Review: ‘Princess’

A cheerfully delusional patient locks horns with the chief doctor at a Finnish mental hospital over the course of a decade in "Princess."

A cheerfully delusional patient locks horns with the chief doctor at a Finnish mental hospital over the course of a decade in “Princess,” the fiction debut of noted documentarian Arto Halonen. Based on a true story, key facts of which are substantially changed here, the handsomely packaged period tale sold 277,000 ducats domestically, making it the third most popular local film of 2010. For offshore audiences, however, it lacks spark (other than that provided by the 1950s electroshock therapy), although it will hold court in fests and film weeks.

The action takes place at country manor-like Kellokoski from 1945-54, where inmate Anna Lappalainen (Katja Kukkola Kuttner, touching) refers to herself as Princess. In between suffering insulin shots, electroshock and malaria treatment at the hands of her nemesis, Dr. Grotenfelt (Samuli Edelmann), and narrowly escaping a lobotomy, Princess endears herself to other patients, staff and the village of Kellokoski with her kindness, eccentric grande dame manner and gifts of needlework and massage. Lensing is lush, costumes colorful, and the spritely score works overtime to instill some drama. Kuttner nabbed Finland’s Jussi award for best actress of the year.

Princess

Finland

Production

A Sandrew Metronome release of an Art Films production, in association with MTV2, with the support of the Finnish Film Foundation, the Media Programme of the European Union, Nordisk Film and TV Fund. (International sales: Art Films, Helsinki.) Produced, directed by Arto Halonen. Screenplay, Pirjo Toikka, Halonen, Paavo Westerberg.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen; editor, Tuuli Kuittinen; music, Tuomas Kantelinen; art director, Jukka Uusitalo; costume designer, Ritva Muikku; sound (Dolby Digital), Antti Koukonen, Samuli Pullinen, Juha Linna, Heikki Innanen. Reviewed on DVD, Chicago, March 3, 2011. (In Gothenburg Film Festival -- competing; 2010 Montreal World Film Festival -- First Films, competing.) Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Katja Kukkola Kuttner, Krista Kosonen, Samuli Edelmann, Peter Franzen, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, Paula Vesala, Antti Litja, Paava Westerberg, Irma Junnilainen, Tapio Liinoja.

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