“The Princess From the Mill” radiates an innocence, honesty and love for its story that will make this charming Czech fairy tale a bull’s-eye hit with the primary school set and their parents. Beautifully filmed in crayon-bright colors , the tale blends romance and fantasy in an idyllic countryside setting. Sweet folk songs and a romantically pretty score move the film along at a gentle pace. Film should carry over well to a wider European market.
Daydreaming Jindrich (Radek Valenta) leaves his village, determined to find and marry a princess. A witch (Lucie Bila) transports him to a mill pond where Eliska (Andrea Cerna) lives with her father (Alois Svehlik). Their only neighbors, a green-skinned water sprite (Jakub Zindulka) and a furry, horned imp (Yvetta Blanarovicova), are a rustic Mutt and Jeff. Both love Eliska and immediately spot Jindrich as serious competition. Hoping to divert the princess-obsessed intruder, the two transform into frog and cat awaiting the magic kisses from Jindrich that turn them into a pair of ugly bickering sisters.
When a wealthy, aged nobleman (Ota Sevcik) joins the queue of contenders for Eliska’s hand, the maid, in time-honored fairy tale tradition, sets a trio of tasks for her suitors. Heavy doses of magic and comedy get the three bumblers over the hurdles, while Jindrich sails through the tasks easily and unknowingly. But — big problem — Eliska is no princess and Jindrich wants nothing less. Using her suitors’ gifts, Eliska appears in crown and gown, walking on the pond, and Jindrich at last recognizes her as the princess of his dreams.
Performances are broad and energetic. Jindrich’s hard-working and appealing character and Eliska’s spirited, level-headed nature rescue the two from vacuousness. In a role that has already earned her an acting award, Blanarovicova as the adorably naughty imp bolts and scampers across the screen with non-stop squirrely chatter and disappears as a spiraling blue twinkle.
Director Zdenek Troska builds on a Czech tradition of period costume fairy tale films, while bolstering his own reputation with this well-drafted movie.