Not convincing enough

Diana, Princess of Wales, was always a controversial figure, especially during the last three years of her life.

She had separated from Prince Charles and was trying to live her own life, bitter at her treatment by Charles and the Royal family, desperate to have more contact with her children, needy in terms of relationships. She moved into the public arena with different charitable causes and her concern about issues of land mines.

And she was hounded by the paparazzi. She was beloved by many people, called the Princess of Hearts, the object of an outpouring of national grief at her death, the subject of conspiracy theories concerning the manner of her death.

The screenplay for this film, based on a book by Kate Snell, is really a speculation about Diana’s relationship with the Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan. He has remained silent about the relationship, so the material in this film is a story, imagined in detail, of love and frustration. Ultimately, Dodi Fayed is introduced but there is a strange ambiguity in the latter part of the film about Diana’s relationship with him.

The film offers a sympathetic portrait of Diana, especially as played by Naomi Watts, who does not always look like Diana but is able to give an impersonation, with accent, body language, especially the flirtatious tilt of the head in speaking to people and in giving interviews.

She seems to be a asking to be loved. For those devoted to Diana, the sympathetic portrait might please, but going behind the scenes as well as into scenes of her intimacy with the doctor could seem too intrusive. For those not devoted to Diana or who are neutral about her, the film does offer a dramatisation of her loneliness and her need for a relationship.

It also dramatises the relentless regimentation of her life and appointments, the continual scrutiny by courtl officials of what she said and what she did (especially the famous interview with Martin Bashir), and the perennial hounding by reporters and paparazzi, the callous behaviour towards her, the impertinent questioning, the never-ending need for yet another photo. But what is mysterious is Diana’s treatment of some special reporters and photographers after her separation from Hasnat Khan.

Tte film serves as a biopic, but without the guarantees that the details and the insights are actual because Diana is long dead and the doctor silent. Much of the treatment is in the style of popular magazines or popular television programs. But it is not quite enough for a valid and useful study - Peter Malone, ACOFB


Starring Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson. Directed by Oliver Hirschbirgel. 109 minutes. Rated M (Coarse language).

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