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.