Director: Oliver Hirschbiegal
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge
by Sarah Gillespie
A biopic by Oliver Hirschbiegal on probably the most influential British woman of the nineties, it was a surprise to me that Diana, the story of the final two years of the Princess of Wales’ life following her split from Prince Charles, was slated by the press. I thought that the arrival of such a film would be welcomed onto our screens. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Described as ‘car crash cinema’ by the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw and only rating 3% on Rotten Tomatoes I was disappointed and would have to say these ratings were a bit (but only a bit) harsh.
Indeed, the film is not accurate. It doesn’t reflect her life; it is ‘Hollywoodised.’ Much to my dismay, the film is about a love affair: the intimate relationship between Diana and her, as portrayed, one true love, heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. Therefore, how can it be accurate? Diana never released intimate details and neither did Dr. Khan, ironically with Khan’s privacy causing several lover’s spats, the content of the film has to be made up. ‘You don’t perform the operation. The operation performs you. ‘ is a quote of Dr. Khan in the film, only one example of how the script lacks true content. Although not being depicted as the true romance of Diana, the iconic pictures of Diana with Dodi Fayed on the yacht are recreated as the world saw them back in ’97. Fayed’s formal invitations and the seemingly impersonal last few moments of the princess’ life as she left her hotel suite implies no romance between the two, a tactical or business affair perhaps? Or so the film portrays. Diana’s two sons, the young Prince William and Prince Harry only feature once: a major faux pas considering that the world knows how much Diana loved her boys, a mutual feeling we are reminded of today as the Princes often speak fondly of their mother.
However, it must be said that in adopting the persona of Diana, Naomi Watts brings her alive at times, although hard to say whether through the twinkle in her eye and loving touch or in the odd scene with her charity work, which, in particular I think she should be congratulated for. Her portrayal of Di’s charity work brought the most poignant moment in the movie: while abroad with the Red Cross, Diana stops the car, emerges, and walks towards a woman crying at her son’s grave. As she holds the woman close to her, Watts grasps the loving nature of the princess and does so in a way that the audience can feel the intimacy for those few seconds.
Her tragic death in Paris, in the summer of 1997, brought heartache to millions worldwide. Adored and cherished by the world, it was clear that her character being recreated on screen would bring controversy. Fair play to Watts for taking on the role, which I’m sure she did not take lightly: they were big shoes to fill. She would never win everybody’s hearts. I was left bubbling as the credits rolled; as a nineties child I do not remember Diana, I only know it as the story goes, so Watts must have been doing something right.
Hoping to be astonished by the wonders of the beloved princess’ life, but instead presented with a romantic story of forbidden love, with a predetermined disastrous ending, I was left dissatisfied. I would have to pass next time!