Director: Robert DePaolis | Script: roberto depaolis Cast: Kevin Glory (Princess), Lino Musella (Corrado), ea | Time to play: 108 minutes | Year: 2022
Like a modern-day Disney princess, the Nigerian princess inhabits a wonderland filled with lens flare and fog banks, wild animals and bright pink wigs. Behind all the magic, however, she hides a harsh reality. The fact that director Roberto De Paolis plays with the aesthetic of fairy tales in his neorealist study of illegal immigrants in Rome dependent on sex work means that Princess strongly reminiscent of the equally captivating The Florida Project by Sean Baker.
In her forested kingdom on the side of a country road, Princess, armed with her iPhone, challenges an army of horny Italians who use her body for the lowest possible price. None of them are courteous. The only prince on a white horse is the occasional police horseman chasing the Princess, and a well-endowed rich man, who shows off his sporty white. De Paolis portrays this frontier land where black women fight for survival with sharpness and abrasive beauty.
The only support Princess receives is from other patients with whom she is constantly connected through her headset. On her birthday, the Nigerian women with whom she shares a room of hers enthusiastically spray her with soda. Like newcomer Kevin Glory, these women are not professional actresses. However, her own stories are interchangeable with the plot. There’s a strong sense of togetherness at times like this, though it also leads to fierce clashes on several occasions.
Glory portrays a fragile but combative character based on her personal experiences as an illegal immigrant and sex worker. The image of a naked princess next to a taxi, a reference to Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’, strongly expresses this duality. Princess manages to escape harsh reality by living in her own dream world. Because she, she reasons, is not her body that bleeds, stinks, and has sex with bums, but the body of a woman in Nigeria she switched bodies with before she left.
Princess then meets Corrado, who is looking for mushrooms, who complicates her logic. Is she capable of receiving love with another’s body? Corrado is a loner who spends his days feeding meat to pigeons, much to the dismay of Princess who, at the beginning of the film, roasts a ramshackle fox for food. She only sees him as a paying customer, but he seems to feel more for her and repeatedly manages to delay a business transaction. Tenderly, the mild-mannered Corrado loosens himself from Princess, layer by layer.
When the two end up at the local pub after a difficult date, Princess feels compelled to enter a private birthday party and sing there, seeking confirmation from society allowing her to perish on the outskirts of town. The result is a disarming scene in which de Paolis focuses on two people who, in mutual affection, see their faith in humanity somewhat restored.
Although Princess and Corrado’s love story deserves a Disney ending, De Paolis opts for a sobering ending that does justice to the daily degradation experienced by the Nigerian women to whom his film is dedicated. as in The Florida Project your dream and reality Princess unknown neighbors. A future love is presented, but Princess cannot grab it with both hands because she is too humiliated. De Paolis lets that cruelty come into its own with his anti-fairy tale.