The Princess REVIEW – An Intimate Portrayal

Despite the many Princess Diana docs out there, Ed Perkins' The Princess brings something new to the table.

The Princess
The Princess

Ed Perkins’ The Princess is an amalgamation of media clips that exist of Diana’s life since she joined the royal family. He lets these clips and interviews of her tell the story — strangely fitting given the fact that most of us have only glimpsed Diana through the camera lens.

The documentary begins where the story ends: the paparazzi chase in Paris that cost Diana her life. From there, we ‘re taken back to the announcement of Charles and Diana’s engagement, an event that changed her life forever.

Perkins does well in arranging all this footage together. It flows seamlessly from one event to the next, and even though there isn’t a narrator, the viewer will be able to follow along rather easily. The first thing we notice is the juxtaposition of Diana before and after her marriage. She was beaming and practically radiant as she showed off her engagement ring to the press, and this continued to persevere within her till the royal wedding. After that, there’s a perceptible shift in Charles’ treatment of her, seen in his displeasure when the crowds show up for her and not him.

Slowly, that bright-eyed 19 year old girl becomes sadder and more withdrawn, especially as every single one of her actions are laid bare for the world to judge and offer their opinion. It also seems like Charles cast shade over any exuberant moment, like her dance with John Travolta or their tour together in Australia. He was the royal, yet everyone was fawning over her.

The documentary wants us to consider if Diana and Charles could have had a fighting chance without the media, or the interference of the royal family. What are meant to be private matters between the two of them spill out into the open, with the press breaking the news of her eating disorder and suicide attempts, as well as the tensions that existed in their marriage. Despite all Diana’s humanitarian work, what people are eager to consume is actually the salacious details of her private life. The fact that Perkins was able to reconstruct her entire life based on these media clips shows how voracious the media were when it came to Princess Diana.

The constant surveillance and lack of privacy that surrounded her life is made obvious the further we get into the documentary, which does explain the audacious behaviour the paparazzi displayed in the incident that caused her death. Princess Diana pictures meant money, and people willing to go to great lengths to get their hands on these pictures. While the public reprimand the press for the part they played in her death, in the same breath these are the same people buying up the tabloid papers about her.

Just last year we had a fabled take on Diana’s last Christmas at Sandringham with Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, as well as a new season of The Crown, proving how there’s still immense fascination with Diana’s life even though it’s been 25 years since her passing. In Diana we see all the complexities of being human, the hurt and the pain, but also the love and warmth she radiated when she spoke to people. There was a true sense of empathy and desire to connect, and it’s a shame she never got a chance to grasp her happiness.

Review screener provided.

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The Princess
Ed Perkins' The Princess treads new ground by letting the images of Diana steer the storytelling.