Munger Monday: Princess Cut Themes

During college, I watched the movie Princess Cut for the first time. The film brought me to tears and the Lord used it as an instrumental influence in the way I think about romantic relationships. Since that time, the film has grown into a trilogy series, and Princess Cut 3 premiered this year on Valentine’s Day. In 2021, I had the opportunity to review Princess Cut 2, and I reached out to director Paul Munger to request an interview. The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to interview Paul, and his wife Sheilah, co-creators of the trilogy.

Now, as we celebrate the release of Princess Cut 3 on DVD (get yours here), it is my privilege to share a three-part feature based on my interview with the Mungers. Today’s story will focus on the themes and inspiration for the trilogy.

Princess Cut Themes

Like we learned in last week’s post, Princess Cut was birthed in the desire to examine modern-day relationships through the lens of Scriptural precedent. There are more than one direct references to Scripture within the movie. For example, Katherine, recalling her own mother’s wisdom, quotes Proverbs 13:12 (“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes it’s a tree of life”), to Grace. “That’s a message that our age of instant  gratification needs to hear,” Paul says. “Trusting God with our love life will yield blessings and peace.” In another overt reference, Grace’s dad, Jim, explains the Scriptural precedent for fathers giving their daughters in marriage.

Thematically, the film takes its cues from the famous “Love Chapter,” 1st Corinthians 13. “The apostle Paul describes love as the ‘better way,’” Paul notes. “In the first movie we observe Grace Anderson learning that love is patient.”

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;

I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

Psalm 17:15

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right

Eph. 6:1

Additionally, Sheilah cites Psalm 17:15 and Ephesians 6:1 as scriptural basis for the film. “‘Children’ in the Greek is ‘Ekron,’ and means ‘born ones,’” Sheilah explains. According to “Genesis 3, A man is to leave and cleave. Until that point the ‘born ones’ follow their head.” Likewise, the relationship between Katherine and Jim illustrates the biblical principle of submission. “Katherine shows deference to Jim’s headship over Grace and honors his wisdom,” Sheilah says.

“Our desire was to model how a wife shows reverence to her husband as the head and leans on his wisdom, to allow the parents to be a part [of the relationship].” Paul agrees: “The importance of an involved Dad in a child’s life has been affirmed repeatedly through studies and statistics,” he says. “The Dad, Jim, (played by Rusty Martin Sr, who also played the boss in Courageous…) seeks to shepherd his children’s heart, emphasizing that being the right person is more important than finding the right person.”

Both Paul and Sheilah seek to instill these same values in their own children. “It takes time and patience to understand the complexities that teens are going through,” Paul remarks, “and we try to practice in real life the Scripture-grounded conversations we put up on screen for the Anderson family.” Sheilah adds, “One example I share with my boys is, ‘Pretend your life is a hot air balloon. All the preparations are made and up to the point of departure you can either surround your balloon with fans or go it alone and cut your own rope. How you leave and enter manhood matters. We want to support you and cut the ropes while cheering, not learn of it from others and be left wondering if you ever made it.’” Most importantly, Sheilah stresses that “You must have your satisfaction in Christ. A spouse is not equipped to meet your ultimate and most basic needs. Only Christ can satisfy.”

Real Life Inspiration

Princess Cut also draws inspiration from the Mungers’ love story. “There’s no doubt that the relationships we both had been through in the past greatly informed our writing,” Paul says. “Just like Grace exclaims in the movie, ‘I feel like my heart has been passed around like a football,’ both Sheilah and I went through the ups and downs of the dating scene.” Paul, like Clint, had a “near engagement that broke apart badly because of [his] immaturity.” Sheilah, like Grace, “was determined not to move towards school and relationships without [her] parents’ blessing.”

Both Sheilah and I went through the ups and downs of the dating scene.

Paul munger

During their courtship, Paul spent time with Sheilah’s family, just as Clint made a point to hang out with the Andersons. Additionally, Clint’s symbolic bouquet was inspired by a real-life gift that Paul presented to Sheilah. “Paul gave me a similar bouquet at an Artist Series event at [college],” Sheilah recalls.

Plus, there’s a direct correspondence between the film’s protagonists and their respective inspirations. Sheilah resonates strongly with Grace’s struggles in the movies. “Grace, to me, shows the frustration at love I felt, the struggle of navigating singleness…the physicality in relationships I sought to avoid and get away from,” Sheilah says. Like Grace, she also recognized “the need to have Christ satisfy [her].” Paul sees himself in Clint, who is “a bit more reserved, spirit-focused. It’s a match made in Heaven,” he says.

“My Daughter’s Boyfriends”

Early on in the first film, the Andersons receive a shocking parade of visitors, young and middle-aged, who arrive in response to a newspaper ad (courtesy of Grace’s little brother, Drew). This scene was actually adapted from a short film that the Mungers created for a 48-hour filmmaking contest through [the now defunct] christianfilmmakers.org.

“The short, ‘My Daughter’s Dates,’ which is still on YouTube somewhere was our first go at getting experience in film making and making a comedy,” Sheilah notes. “It wasn’t the basis of the film exactly, but it was the basis for the comedic elements.”

The premise? “A mischievous young boy [tries] to help his sister get a date  by listing her in a newspaper ad, and then… a series of romantic suitors come to the door,” Paul explains. “That scene also made it into the feature-length movie and provided some laughs.” Of course, “the longer runtime also gave [the filmmakers] opportunity to more deeply investigate a father’s role in helping shepherd his daughter towards marriage.”

Trilogy

Princess Cut was originally crafted as a stand-alone film, which has since grown into a trilogy. “In actual fact, we didn’t have sequels in mind when writing the first Princess Cut,” Paul explains. “But after the movie enjoyed modest success and we were looking for another film to make, we realized there were plenty of interesting characters that we could follow, and so we started writing.” And, although she started as a side character, Tessa ended up taking on a larger role. “When Dave Hansen (our screenwriter) came onboard, he latched onto the character of Tessa,” Paul says. “In a sense, the three movies became an unexpected arc for her character to grow and be transformed.”

With Tessa’s love story written, there’s still a possibility for a fourth film. “We actually think of Princess Cut as a series and are still discussing the possibilities for a fourth in order to delve into Paige’s story,” Sheilah says. “For fans, you’ll remember at the end [of the first film] Grace gives Clint the seed pack from her Dad. I’d like to explore Page’s future [in light of the events from Princess Cut 2].”

…suffering is unavoidable, but in our suffering, He is right there with us– always!

pAUL MUNGER

Subsequent films in the series, like the first, emphasize the importance of putting Christ first in romantic relationships. “The sequel shows marriage under pressure,” Sheilah says. “Love is like a diamond,” Paul adds. “You hold it up to the light and its multifaceted splendors radiate to all who see it.” But, it’s easy to overlook the reality that suffering is also a part of life— and love.

“One unexpected aspect of love can only be understood against the backdrop of suffering,” Paul notes. “Here in affluent America, we’re often surprised when trials come our way, and are tempted to question God’s love. But consider this: God loved us so much that He came down and suffered in our place that we might one day, on the other side of death, never have to suffer again. Until then, suffering is unavoidable, but in our suffering He is right there with us – always! In the words of Matthew Henry, ‘If He will save our souls, we can acquiesce to all His disposals.’ Trust His Love.”

Published by Stephanie Agnes-Crockett

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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