PRINCESS OF THE SUN
(La Reine Soleil)
Philippe Leclerc directs in a colourfully stylised, very two-dimensional style one is constantly reminded of the work of fellow French animator Michel Ocelot of Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) fame, albeit combined with judicious use of dimensional animation. The characters have a bubbly vibrancy. There is a plucky heroine in the vein of the modern Disney animated film who has an ongoing bickering match with her male companion. The film has a warm sense of humour, although welcomely none of the cutsie quick relief (least of all talking animal sidekicks) so common to English-language animation. Indeed, Princess of the Sun is the oddity of childrens animated film that has been pitched more to adults than children. The loveliest moments are those when the film delicately brushes over into the fantastic, especially the scene where Akhenaton walks to his death inside the pyramid, sits inside the ornamental boat in the lake and the top of the pyramid opens and a beam of sunlight comes down and causes him to dissolve into dust.
What is so surprising about what is essentially a childrens film a genre not exactly known for its exploring intellectually challenging concepts is the number of complex issues it tackles. There is a surprisingly intricate plot and moreover one that reaches to take on some issues that are surely way above the heads of the intended youth audience the clash between monotheism and polytheism in Ancient Egypt and the complex politicking of different factions with the dynasty of Akhenaton (circa 1331 B.C.).
The other great surprise is that much of Princess of the Sun has been based on actual historical incident. Akhenaton, who reigned circa 1353-1331 B.C., was one of the most famous of all Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. (Even more famous is Akhenatons wife Nefertiti who is probably the most well known Queen of Egypt second to Cleopatra). It is not known if Akhenaton was ever deposed by the priests of Amun-Re but certainly his dismissal of Egypts assorted gods and the enforced replacement by monotheism, that is to say worship of the sun god Aten of which Akhenaton decreed himself the living embodiment, caused much unrest. Akhenaton did have a daughter Akhesa (or to give her her real name Ankhesanpaaten and later Ankhesenamen), although there is no record of her having single-handedly ventured to save the kingdom from usurpation by the priests of Amun-Re. She later married Tut-Ankh-Aten or, as he is most well known, Tutankhamun, the most famous of all Egyptian pharaohs. The film is very well researched in terms of the design and costuming of the era, even the design of the still existing temple of Karnak.
Certainly, a number of things have been kind of swept under the carpet and ignored in order to make the story palatable to modern audiences. It is believed that Akhesa may have been married to her father before she married Tutankhamun (something that was common amongst Egyptian royalty of the era). Also not mentioned is the fact that Akhesa and Tut-Ankh-Aten would actually be half-brother and sister. However, all mention of incest has been brushed aside in the film due to the unpalatability of the notion today. There also seems a suspicious lack of any slave raves that the Ancient Egyptians kept it would have been expected, for instance, that when Akhenaton went to his death in the pyramid that his slaves be buried with him to accompany him into the afterlife.
Trailer here (French language no subs):-