To paraphrase Norman Mailer I once read speaking of all the books written about Marilyn Monroe (and then also writing a book about her) – there seem to be more documentaries (and dramatisations) covering the life of Diana, the late Princess Of Wales, than there are on major battles of World War II.
In terms of sheer power of over-analysed yet equally unresolved history, this parallel regarding both women still holds.
Saying that, I went into the cinema at Sundance London in some odd anticipation of viewing Ed Perkins‘s The Princess (2022). Why? The honest answer is that I still don’t know. Or, more likely, cannot explain.
Perhaps it’s because I expected something different to what I have seen before, as it exclusively consists of archival footage – no talking heads, no recreations of events, no voiceover.
Or, maybe, I just needed to spend a few ghostly hours in the presence of Diana and her story. Which is a strange thought, but not untrue. We crave what we have become familiar with, what soothes us. And the late Princess of Wales was exceptional in many ways, but most of all – in offering unrestrained comfort to strangers.
And therein lies both the mystery of her enduring appeal – and the public’s complicity in Diana’s tragedy.
Delicately and devastatingly weaving together pieces of footage compiled from myriad media outlets, from the year of Diana’s arrival into the royal fold, to her final days, and tragic exit – allowing for the narrative constructed by the footage itself to reveal long forgotten royal blunders, as well as angles where our gaze through another’s lens becomes so clearly intrusive that it resembles a hunt – this is an exquisite backstage look on how a (media) myth is created.
The obsession at its core built through years upon years of diligent coverage. The endless streams of public opinion laid bare, thread by thread. The arc of the conjured fairytale inevitably bending towards darkness.
And in this revelation, this film is merciless.
It’s hard to outfox the mass media machine. But this clever and heartfelt doc might just have managed.
Author: ©Milana Vujkov