Princess DVD review

Porn is bad, mmkay? Mark Oakley watches a film that well and truly smashes the point home...


There is a sequence in Princess that sees the film’s protagonist burn down a shrine to his dead sister, a shrine that consists of four huge phallic pillars, to the tones of Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien (albeit an English version). Reading that, you’re probably thinking that Princess doesn’t sound your cup of tea. Permit me to try to change your mind.

Set in the underbelly of the porn industry, the film charts the aftermath of the death of Christine, a famous porn star – the Princess of the title – who dies of a drugs overdose. On hearing news of her death, her brother, August, returns home from carrying out missionary work abroad to take Christine’s five-year-old daughter, Mia, under his wing.

As he learns more and more about his sister’s grim past, and about the untold horrors Mia has gone through while living among Christine’s porno friends, August’s guilt of spreading the good word while she spread her legs turns to anger and he goes on a one-man mission to rid the world of any porn starring his sister. Then the killing begins.

Told with a mixture of animation and live action, Princess is a visual treat. Never showy or seemingly for art’s sake, each crossover from manga-style anime to live action (via video tapes made by August) is expertly done and adds some real drama, as well as an extra degree of humanity to the film.

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The plot’s central theme, that of revenge, is beautifully paced, building to a climax in the final third that is both brutal and satisfying. There are holes, most notably that of why August films everything on camera. It’s never fully explained so when a scene where Christine has sex with her landlord to blackmail him, it’s hard to believe August would have had anything to do with it (he does protest but why be there in the first place?).

Similarly, for a missionary man, August’s bloodlust is seemingly insatiable, and how he learned to fire a gun so expertly, or obtain and let off a bomb, is a little hard to swallow. Yes, he is a man driven to destruction because of the guilt/rage he feels for his sister, so while his mission to enlighten her path is acceptable, how he goes about it is, at times, questionable. Mind you, I never questioned D-Fens in Falling Down so maybe I shouldn’t question this either.

In the end, these are minor points. Accept it for what it is and the film is richly rewarding. Standout moments are August’s (and Mia’s) takedown of the porn company that’s still distributing Princess merchandise, culminating in that huge stone penis burning, and a scene where one of the company’s owners is violently bludgeoned.

Away from the violence, the relationship between Mia and August is touching, as it dawns on August what Mia has been through while spending time with her mother’s porno pals. On seeing bruises upon her person, you do genuinely recoil a little, the subject matter perhaps too raw for some.

There is also the matter of growing up in a porn star’s world and what that would do to a young girl. Mia is unaware that some things are strictly taboo, so when seeing her mother on the cover of a porn mag, she happily shouts out to all that that’s her mum. More disturbing is a scene where she is playing with some local children at doctors and nurses. On hearing there is no more room for a doctor, patient or nurse, she offers to play, like her mum, a whore. It could be argued that surely she would have a better moral compass than that, but that’s the world in which she grew up. It’s the only world she knows.

Some may similarly argue that the Danish director should have had a better moral compass when deciding to make this film but I think that’s missing the point. If anything, I saw this as an attack on the porn industry and how it can turn a joyous young woman (which we witness in live film flashbacks) into an angry, messed up individual hanging out with a bunch of no hopers (all those within the porn company are drawn as deeply unsympathetic characters).

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Extras are sparse with just a trailer but the film’s a winner on its own. Despite its flaws, Princess grabs you from the off and doesn’t let go for an instant. It’s a deep, darkly woven tale of revenge, companionship – even love – and one that I’d recommend to anyone.

(N.B. No porn puns were intended in the writing of this review.)

4 out of 5


4 out of 5