The Princess of Wales, former husband of Prince Charles and renowned Humanitarian during the mid 90’s. So, if Diana, the 117 minute saga chronicling two years in the life of possibly the most famous woman alive from 1995 to 1997 isn’t about her humanitarian work nor her marriage to Prince Charles, nor her decisions when in power and especially not her independence as a renowned female figure, then what story could be in store for such an elusive character? My review of Diana after the jump.
It’s 1995, Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) is continuously followed by paparazzi, all desperate for a money shot of the famous figure. Amidst her brave and noble humanitarian work she is also dealing with her troubled marriage with Prince Charles and the controversy surrounding the fall out if their relationship. Behind the smiling façade, put on for the public, she’s lonely and she’s tired. Things however, change when she meets a young heart surgeon, Hasnat (Naveen Andrews) to whom she dedicates whatever time she has to herself to win him over. Hasnat is not wooed by her fame, in fact he almost ignores it entirely. He treats her just like any other person and she needs to work for his affection. The catch to it all is that she refuses to officially divorce prince Charles due to her stance on divorce in itself. Despite being separated from Charles, many perceived her romance with Hasnat as unjust, including the paparazzi and Hasnat’s family. What eventuates is a two-year struggle, of a powerful woman who wanted to have a life whilst making a difference, and the love she attempted to maintain, that very few knew or understood.
It needs to be stated right here and now before any attributes or criticisms regarding Diana can be mentioned, that the humble reviewer of this film has a very limited knowledge regarding Princess Diana’s work, legacy or even just as a person. I was at the mercy of this film to amend that, but unfortunately things didn’t go so well. Diana is not a biopic, nor is the story’s emphasis on facts or realism; you will learn very little about Diana herself. Diana‘s goal is to entertain and to please, using Princess Diana and her struggle for privacy and comfort to headline the theatrics. This is a romance picture designed to be played in cinemas only before midday as so senior citizens can see it just before or after morning tea. To revel in the cliché that Diana is in fact a midday movie would be succumbing to the film’s own mediocrity. However, the first five minutes of this film, are in fact fantastic. It utilises silence, reveals very little of its intentions and creates an uncertain and jarring atmosphere whilst telling us what story we’re about to be told (but unfortunately are not). However, the minute dialogue is introduced and flashbacks are incorporated is the minute when the film begins to fall down the numerous cliffs & potholes that make up this poorly constructed film.
The question to ask is, why? Why a romance to inform us of Diana’s state of mind and existence before her untimely death, as opposed to a story with broad aspirations? Diana, loses almost all her independence and dignity as a character by going to great lengths to attract and please this male heart surgeon who approaches her as if she were anyone other than the most renowned woman in the world at the time, but there’s reason. He is an obnoxious, rude and selfish character who treats everyone equally; unfortunately, the film isn’t aware of it and passes it off as masculinity. One can only wonder may have been accomplished if the film had a different focus point for the story.
The film can be summarised in two scenes: Diana, after just having a fight with Hasnat (who refuses to speak to her or give her any real attention) breaks into his home and decides to clean it for him – every inch of it, giving the filmmakers a chance for a montage. In the next frame, (yes, the very next frame) the two are in bed together, Hasnat smiling and holding Diana. Why would any scene like this exist in a story revolving around a renowned person in history who literally did all she could to change the world? What writer could agree with this? The moral to this of course being that Hasnat is in fact a rude bastard and when you’re fighting with your significant other, make sure to clean their entire living space as opposed to talking it through. What nonsense.
It has to be noted, the screenplay in question brings the entire film down…all of it. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel utilises inventive shots and the opening five minutes demonstrates a real discipline and intelligence in his direction, but none of it is saved when the quality of each performance deteriorates due to a terrible, carelessly written screenplay. Naiomi Watts is wonderful, and is convincing for the most part as the title role. Naveen Andrews also gives a good performance as Hasnat, despite playing a poorly written character who either has a smoke or drink in his hand for the entire film.
What little this reviewer knows is that Princess Diana was indeed a strong role model for women everywhere as one who was independent, conscientious and although not perfect, one who was willing to face the music when it’s being played. So, why spend the vast majority of the 117 minute feature revealing such a strong, independent character to be one who was on her hands and knees impressing a man? She literally cooks and cleans for him whilst he complains and pouts. This is not a film which deserves the name it carries.
Oh and yes, there are more than two shots with candles in the wind.
By Chris Elena
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Writer: Stephen Jeffreys
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Juliet Stevenson
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release date: Australia: October 10 2013