wogma rating: Add to “To Watch” list, watch some day (?)
Princess Diana’s life was always a film waiting to happen, but director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s handling of it does leave a lot to be desired. Even though Naomi Watts makes the film watchable, one can’t help but wish the film did more justice to the enigma that was Diana.Read more
I won’t ever forget how the 11-year-old me reacted to the news of Lady Diana’s death. My first, instant reaction – which I said out aloud – was, “Good riddance.”
My rather insensitive reaction to that quite tragic piece of news was because - and I remember this clear as daylight – I thought that for someone whose only claim to fame was that she married the Prince of Wales, she seemed to be present for one photo op too many. And this was in the days when we didn’t even have access to the kind of 24 x 7 news channels like we do today.
It took me a few more years to realize that this was hardly her fault; because sometimes fame chases even those who don’t want it. I must confess that I have been intrigued by her charismatic personality and her extraordinarily eventful life ever since.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film on Princess Diana covers the last two years of her life, when she fell in the kind of love that isn’t meant to be, up until the day of her tragic death in Paris, which sent waves of shock all around the world. Hirschbiegel’s terrific 2004 film Downfall was similarly based on the last days of the life of a highly controversial public figure. The maturity, however, with which he treated that film seemed to be lacking in Diana.
When you’re making a film on the life of a personality like Princess Diana, you’re always walking a thin line. Everyone has shades of grey, but with celebrity status, those shades assume mammoth proportions, and you never quite know where you’re headed while recounting their life. Perhaps the intent of the makers of Diana was to capture the various shades of the enigma that was she, but unfortunately, what comes across is a far too sanitized version of the last years of her life.
The problem with the film, really, lies in the fact that you can never tell where her tale is being told from. Is it from the vantage point of an objective third person? Is it from the perspective of the Lady herself? Or is it from the point of view of someone in the middle – someone who knew her well enough to know certain intimate parts of her life, and yet not too close enough for her to completely trust?
As you struggle trying to figure this out, you’re left with images and scenes of an idealistic woman who saw everything in black or white. She was either the victim or the savior, never just a person. The Diana of the film often comes across as an idealistic little girl trapped in a shell of fame; a shell that she’d have loved to break away from. Whether she actually was that, one can never know, but surely painting her world in broad strokes does little justice to the life she lived, and the travails she doubtlessly endured.
If Diana still is a film that can be watched at least once, it is because of Naomi Watts. Now Watts looks nothing like Diana as far as facial features are concerned. However, ever so often, when, in the film, her face is in a slight silhouette, or it passes by the camera in a flash, or even when it is gently out of focus, I couldn’t help but see Diana in her. Combine that with a regal gait, and Watts convinces you that she certainly wasn’t miscast. The slightly-out-of-shape Naveen Andrews was a brave choice for the character of Dr. Hasnat Khan. The fact that it isn’t a ruggedly masculine, chiseled man playing the character lends an air of authenticity.
Still, for various reasons, Diana is far too shallow a film to truly go down as a memorable look at Lady Diana’s life. The good news, however, is that it still leaves the window open for someone else to attempt another cinematic crack at the fascinating life of one of the most enduring women ever.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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