Diana – review

Biopics are probably watched with more personal expectations than any other sub-genre. For Diana, the expectations add up from all the names involved; internationally acclaimed actress Naomi Watts in the title role, director Oliver Hirschbiegel, who still strives for a project that could impress Hollywood as much as the two films made in his homeland of Germany (Das Experiment and Downfall). And surely, the title role itself raises many questions.




It is partly exhilarating to see the film trying to reach the seriousness it desires. Long takes follow Diana along her anxious walk before she departs on her ill-fated journey, while a shot from an elevator’s CCTV heightens the realism of the events. Nevertheless, the film’s uncertainty about its own story is displayed too clearly after the first thirty minutes. Its irritatingly quick editing tries to build up a pace of routine during the former princess’s daily life, but when this intertwines with a story of romance, it fails to sustain the credibility that the film needs.

Watching the evolution of Diana’s relationship with surgeon Hasnat Khan requires so much patience to withstand its episodic telling of their story. And the dialogue doesn’t help, so plain and childish, as if the screenwriters just cut off passages from different romantic novels and patched them together. The problem with Diana is how it tries to propose a ‘simple love story’ for its character, while still striving to reach for the title ‘Princess’ before her name. The result is not much of anything.

Naomi Watts’ acting is flawless and her costumes are well tailored to represent their wearer’s iconic status. A regular collaborator of Hirschbiegel, Rainer Klausmann’s smooth, crisp cinematography brings more intimacy to the audience’s view, and its high angles seem to reflect the way we have always looked at people like Diana, through surveillance distributed by media. This cannot be explained any better than through the film’s depiction of households all tuning in for the night-time news.

Diana’s compassion shown through her attempt to confront the landmines issue is also touching and is sure to linger most with people’s memories of the real events. These are moments that can save the film from its own pitfall of confusion. But there are so few of them and the audience is left baffled with all the details that are too private, and washed away too quickly, to believe. As a film, Diana has promise, but as a biopic, too little integrity.


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November 2021
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