Films: Princess

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Princess  {Prinsessa}


Finland, 2010, 100 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Historical/Period, Medical/Health, Psychological
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: Finnish English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Arto Halonen
Producer: Arto Halonen
Editor: Tuuli Kuittinen
Screenwriter: Pirjo Toikka, Arto Halonen, Paavo Westerberg
Cinematographer: Hannu Vitikainen
Principal Cast: Katja Kukkola, Samuli Edelmann, Krista Kosonen, Peter Franzen, Prikka-Pekka Petelius, Antti Litja

The intermittently charming and undeniably psychotic protagonist of the esteemed Finnish documentarian Arto Halonen's first narrative feature is a former cabaret dancer and professional masseuse named Anna Lappalainen (the versatile and impressive Katja Kukkola, who won a Jussi—Finland’s Oscar—for her performance). In June, 1945—a crucial and confused moment in the history of psychiatry—she is admitted to the Kellokoski Mental Hospital, caught in a tangle of delusions. Anna, who calls herself Princess, believes she a displaced royal born at Buckingham Palace and, in one version of things, dropped into the skies over Finland by a magical eagle. Her assorted relatives include the former crowned heads of Czarist Russia, Imperial Germany, and almost any other nation she can think of.

Based on a true story, Halonen's madhouse drama tells the tale of not only Anna's eventually redemptive struggle with insanity but also the pitched postwar battle that was fought in the mental-health establishment itself. Kellokoski was the first Finnish hospital to burn its straitjackets, we learn—but controversial prefrontal lobotomies, early electroshock treatment (both depicted in scary detail), and psychotropic drug therapies followed over the years as doctors debated, sometimes recklessly, what path to take with their patients.

In the end, Anna emerges from her illness as an acknowledged heroine of psychotherapy (in 1995, Kellokoski erected a monument to her), but the journey was arduous. Halonen’s recounting thereof, however, is, anything but, enhanced by outstanding supporting performances by Krista Kosonen as a fellow patient who imagines herself a baroness and Samuli Edelmann as the asylum's chief physician, Dr. Gotenfelt.

In cooperation with NAMI Colorado

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