Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana isn’t the unadulterated mess so many have said it to be.
Never have I seen a biopic so savagely torn apart by both fans and critics. 4/10 on IMDb; 4% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Needless to say, Diana doesn’t have many fans. But I’m here to defend Diana, for it is interesting, different and takes, contrary to certain reviews, a bold stance.
Firstly, it must be noted that director Oliver Hirschbiegel is no stranger to bringing historic figures to the big screen. His previous attempt was made for Adolf Hitler, with the ground-breaking Downfall, which depicted the final 10 days of Hitler’s life. The movie trusts the audience is knowledgeable of 1930s Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, so it’s able to focus on an era that many may not be aware of. Downfall was able to focus on Hitler’s final moments as the Allies were approaching, and soon to conquer Nazism.
Diana highlights the fickle nature of the tabloids
Looking at a British historic figure, the equally under-appreciated The Iron Lady, again, took a bold stance and focused on the woman, not the legend. The movie trusted the audience was knowledgeable of Margaret Thatcher’s controversial political career, so was able to approach the subject matter from a different angle. It was bold, different and we saw Thatcher as more than just her political workings.
Now, the late Princess Diana is a more loved figure – her humanitarian and charitable work is revered around the world. Her work is well documented and her personal life was sprawled all over British newspapers. The movie, in fact, highlights the fickle nature of tabloids and the aggressive, relentless lengths these newspapers will go to in order to get a scoop. The film, trusting the audience is well informed of Diana’s work, and of the era this story would be taking place in, decides to focus on Princess Diana’s controversial relationship with Dr Hasnat Khan and the final two years of her life.
Is it all conjecture? Quite possibly, as Dr Khan has spoken out against such speculation, claiming their relationship was platonic and non-sexual. But, as he and many people have failed to consider, Diana is an artistic interpretation of events and not a documentary. I too am under no pretence that the events depicted on-screen are entirely true. I had to go away and research to see if it did veer towards the ‘making shit up’ territory (fortunately, it didn’t, and that’s something to consider). Director Hirschbiegel and writer Stephen Jeffreys have taken a bold stance, used historic facts, trusted the audience’s intelligence, added some artistic liberties and focused on a quaint love story.
Diana is an artistic interpretation of events. I am under no pretence that the events depicted on-screen are entirely true
The love story at Diana’s centre works through the chemistry between two leads Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews. Naomi Watts, with all the mannerisms in-check, conveys the confidence the late Diana was able to produce, but simultaneously the exhaustion of having her personal life scrutinised by the press. Naveen Andrews is able to convey the self-sufficient confidence of a doctor never wowed by being in the presence of royalty, but simultaneously the vulnerability and fear of becoming intimate with such a public figure. The film explores these themes of public versus private lives, the consequences for both parties when their worlds collide, and it doesn’t hold back. They argue, they bicker, they have high moments and low moments like any couple would, and it’s all done tastefully.
Diana is flawed, but like any movie depicting a well-documented and multi-faceted character, it had to choose one story. It could be due to poor marketing that film-goers and critics thought it was lacklustre, but it shouldn’t deter those wanting to see an alternative, but respectful, interpretation of the late Princess Diana’s story.
All images: Entertainment One