Dr. Donna Copeland’s
N A O M I W A T T S
The worst thing about the Diana film is the title itself, suggesting this is a biopic or portrait of the ‘most famous woman in the world’. Instead, director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) and writer Stephen Jefferies (The Libertine) paint a “what might have been’ portrait of a love affair that was never meant to be. This film very much reminds me of what Richard Attenborough did with the equally impossible love story between Ernest Hemmingway and Agnes von Kurowsky in his film In Love & War. Similarly, Diana explores the difficulty of a relationship where celebrity and a high profile is involved, which reminded me of Notting Hill, except without the comedy. Diana is being raked over the coals but the performance from Watts is delicate and studied; she manages to portray (whether accurately or not) two very complicated sides of this movie princess.
After waving, giving interviews and doing what she feels is her publicity duty, Princess Diana (Watts) holds that recognizable smile until her car whisks her away and her true face, the one with disappointment and unhappiness, can comfortably settle on her face as she goes back to hide in Winsor palace. It’s only when she meets Dr. Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews) that Diana finds something to smile about. Torn between divorcing Charles and all that comes with royalty, Diana strives to keep her relationship with Khan private. They explore options on how to make their relationship work and fail to find any answer that will bring either happiness.
The entire film rests on the explanation of why Diana has chosen Hasnat; “he acts like he doesn’t know I am a princess”, Diana says. Within the realm of the film, you have to assume what the story is telling you is true or you will never be able to buy into this romance that can only be based on assumptive facts if not hearsay. We watch Diana hide in the trunks of cars, drive her butler’s clunker and disguise herself in wigs just for a few hours of peace from the exhaustive nature of her life. There are moments in the film where we feel for her situation, others where she appears spoiled and unforgivingly naive. Perhaps the most shocking facet to this representation of Diana is how she is portrayed as using the media to what she thinks is her advantage.
This is meant to ultimately be a love story, but the wrong path was taken, as I said by calling this Diana, which makes it sound like a comprehensive piece. Instead, it's a short period in the very extraordinary life of one of the most popular people in the world. The style, look and feel of the film really suggests research on at least setting the look of the film and it’s very easy to be drawn into what would be a fairly ordinary affair without the royalty and celebrity element.
Final Thought - Hirschbiegel would have been more wise to take notes from Kenneth Branagh’s ‘My Week with Marilyn’ as a structural and tonal guide for this film.
By: Dustin Chase
The film Diana looks more like a television biopic than an in depth feature film. I can see why Naomi Watts turned down the role twice before she accepted it, and although her depiction of the icon is up to her usual standard of performance, I think she should have kept turning it down. She says she took it partly because it was going to be made anyway; but her name alone will bring a much larger audience than it would otherwise. I can also see why the real Dr. Hasnat Kahn (played by Naveen Andrews) would be upset with it, and can imagine how much of it is simply made up by the filmmakers, because it has the look of a gossipy piece.
The film covers the last two years of Diana’s life before she was killed in an automobile accident in Paris. It focuses especially on her relationship with Dr. Kahn, as well as her attempts to make her life more meaningful and fulfilling by promoting humanitarian causes. The screenplay by Stephen Jeffreys is based on a 2001 book by Kate Snell entitled Diana: Her Last Love, as well as interviews with Diana’s associates and friends and her own written materials. Dr. Kahn was not interviewed, nor did he give the film his blessing. There are many intimate scenes of the two of them getting acquainted and falling in love, but how much of their actions and words in the film are authentic is unclear. The end of the picture shows Diana with Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar), and implies that her intent was primarily to make Dr. Kahn jealous so he would come back to her.
The film is beautifully shot in locations around the world, including London and other parts of the UK, Croatia, India, Mozambique, and Italy. The filmmakers were not given permission to film in Kensington Palace, where she lived, but they created a set that resembled it, and could film on the outside of the palace and the grounds. Both indoor and outdoor scenes are sumptuous, reflecting the elegant life of a princess.
It’s a disappointment that the film itself turned out to be much less elegant.
By: Donna R. Copeland