Dir: Tom Tykwer. Germany. 2000. 129mins.
Prod co: X Filme Creative Pool. Int'l sales: Canal Plus, tel: (33) 1 4610 1212. Prods: Stefan Arndt, Maria Koepf. Scr: Tykwer. DoP: Frank Griebe. Ed: Mathilde Bonnefoy. Main cast: Franka Potente, Benno Fuermann, Joachim Krul, Juergen Tarrach, Natja Brunckhorst, Lars Rudolph, Melchior Beslon, Ludger Pistor.
Gifted German director Tom Tykwer's latest effort is highly anticipated as it is his first since Run Lola Run, which established him in the local market and raised eyebrows abroad. Tykwer meets these expectations by keeping in line with the style that made Lola run: fancy and imaginative camera work and CGI imagery flash through his tale of fateful coincidence, combining a pivotal bank robbery (as in Lola) with a near-fatal car accident (as in Tykwer's Winter Sleepers). But instead of picking up Lola's fast pace, Tykwer opts for a deliberately slow narrative that is an interesting contrast, although it might put the brakes on the box office motor after a speedy start.
The title refers to protagonists Simone (Potente), a psychiatric nurse called Sissi, like the famous Austrian empress Elisabeth, and Bodo, a former soldier still wearing uniform garments.
After being hit by a truck, Sissi is choking to death beneath the vehicle when Bodo crawls to her help and saves her life. The recovered Sissi pursues him, but he stubbornly dodges her efforts to come to terms with her miraculous salvation. He is still haunted by the loss of his girlfriend who committed suicide after quarrelling with him.
A subplot involves Bodo's brother, Walter, a watchman who schemes a heist in his own bank - he needs cash for the two of them to travel to Australia to rid Bodo of his trauma. The convincing lead actors are ably supported by a cast in rewarding supporting parts, notably the flock of patients that love and challenge Sissi.
Just as Lola could never stop running, it's hard to imagine that Sissi would ever make a fast move. Determined, but trance-like, she needs 50 minutes longer than Lola did to learn what fate has in store for her. This could be too long for a considerable chunk of mainstream film-goers who are used to more hectic film fare.