Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Cas Anvar, Laurence Belcher, Harry Holland, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Charles Edwards, Mary Stockley.
‘Diana’ focuses on the last two years of the life of the Princess of Wales, and her love affair with Hasnat Khan, British Pakistani heart and lung surgeon. The screenplay is based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book ‘Diana: Her Last Love,’ and was written by Stephen Jeffreys.
Producers Robert Bernstein and Douglas Rae opted for a German director to bring this story on the big screen, certain that he would have had a fresh look on the story. Olivier Hirschbiegel, does indeed keep a respectful approach in his storytelling both with the character of Lady D. and Dr Khan, as well as the Royal Family (Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth are entirely absent from the drama, while Princes William and Harry only appear fleetingly in a single scene) and the events in general. But the love story that should have been more level-headed, seems to be drenched with the mushy, corny elements of German romanticism, if not of a cheap romantic novel.
Naomi Watts embodies Diana impeccably, her aristocrat accent, her delicate humble gestures, her poise, her passionate impulses. Just as Naveen Andrews (known to the public for his roles in television series ‘Lost’ and the film ‘The English Patient’) has morphed his athletic physique to a flabbier one, absorbing the magnetic charm of Hasnat, that enchanted Diana. The actors are brilliant just as the shots are original and enthralling.
But the story is completely off-track. The “Queen of Hearts” was undoubtably an unconventional aristocrat, who followed her heart instead of the sense of propriety imposed on royalty. Nevertheless it’s totally unbelievable to picture her as a good housewife, removing the grease from the exhaust hood in the kitchen and vacuuming the apartment of her sweetheart.
Hirschbiegel’s biopic is visually rich but psychologically shallow and ends up destroying the myth of Diana, since she appears to be a whiner who plays the victim for having experienced a broken heart and becomes a sensitive promoter of anti-mine campaign almost to impress her beloved man who saves lives on a daily basis.
Just a still photo of Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews, sufficed for Mr Khan’s disapproval of the reconstruction of his love story with Diana, as he told the UK newspaper the Mail: “You could tell from that picture that it is all just presumed about how we would behave with each other, and they have got it completely wrong.”
Another moment that puzzles in the fictional version of the last two years of “England’s Rose,” is when Diana’s affair with Hasnat comes to an end and she vengefully rebounds into a new romance with Dodi Al-Fayed. She seems to make a pact with the paparazzi and use the Egyptian billionaire to make Khan jealous. A version that clashes with the attempts of the father of Dodi, Mohamed Fayed, of tributing the couple’s love after their death, also through a memorial located in the Harrods store he owns.
Hence, several ingredients of the biopic seem to be off-pitch. One of Hirschbiegel’s statements seems to want to ward off all criticism to the truthfulness of his film: “It is not a documentary but a dramatic interpretation.” It’s understandable that the core idea of fictionalising what might have happened if the Princess didn’t crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, would have been extremely intriguing. But the melodramatic fantastication of her true affair with Doctor Khan has failed.
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi