Movie of the Week: Spencer: The Secret of Princess Diana
The film shows a very short and difficult period in the life of Lady Dee. In fact, the entire tape running time of 111 minutes covers only three days of Christmas in 1991. Recall that earlier in 2016, Pablo Larrain in his film "Jackie" has already resorted to a similar technique. In this film, he told the viewer about a few days in the life of Jacqueline Kennedy, played by Natalie Portman. These days were perhaps the most difficult for the first lady. After all, they cover the period immediately after the assassination of her husband, US President John F. Kennedy. By the way, "Jackie" at one time, as well as his new film about Diana, Pablo Larrain first presented to the public at the Venice Film Festival.
Larraine’s new brainchild – "Spencer: The Secret of Princess Diana" – is announced as a story based on a real tragedy, which in itself relieves its author of responsibility for the plausibility of the events described in it and even directly alludes to artistic conjecture. The film takes place on Christmas Day at the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk.
Princess Diana is on the verge of a divorce from her husband, Prince Charles, and now and then tries to leave the palace with her sons. She was sick of her husband’s betrayals, predictable palace life, suffocatingly filled with stiff traditions. Diana’s condition is shown as close to insanity. In the rooms and corridors of the estate, she imagines her distant ancestor – Anne Boleyn, whom, as we remember from history, her husband Henry XVIII ordered to beheaded.
In addition to a psycho-emotional disorder, the Princess of Wales is burdened by an eating disorder known to the general public. And the close observation of the Windsor courtiers and journalists literally drives her crazy.
In the center of the plot is Diana and only she. All other characters in the film are like scenery for the personal drama of the princess. Even Queen Elizabeth II utters only a couple of phrases throughout the film and seems to exist separately from her daughter-in-law, who is uncomfortable at court. One can only imagine the reaction of Buckingham Palace to the creation of Pablo Larrain about Diana. Indeed, in the film, the entire court appears before us as emotional executioners of the national favorite. For sumptuous meals, hunting and other amusements, no one cares about the state of the princess.
Unless the personal maid Maggie, played by Sally Hawkins, remembered by the audience for her role as Eliza Esposito in the Oscar-winning "The Shape of Water" in 2017, has a clearer written screen portrait with cut dialogues. With this technique, the director probably wanted to emphasize that this woman was the pivot on which Diana could rely on in the days of difficult emotional trials for herself. Suddenly, provocatively thrown by the screenwriter of the film, the lesbian shadow on Maggie’s relationship with Diana seems to pay tribute to the ubiquitous tolerance.
Of particular value in the picture is the work of costumers. As you know, Diana had a special love for classic suits and quilted Chanel handbags. These things occupied a special place in the wardrobe of the princess. It is symbolic that Kristen Stewart herself became a Chanel brand ambassador in 2013, and her friendship with the Fashion House helped costume designer Jacqueline Durran to establish interaction with him, gaining access to Chanel archives and using some of their vintage items, as well as duplicates of a number of costumes. All this helped to resurrect in the film the unique aura and charm that Princess Diana possessed.
Curious is the history of Chanel’s strapless couture dress from the movie poster. It is completely identical to the original Chanel from the spring-summer 1988 collection, which has been kept in the archives of the Fashion House for more than 30 years. It was because of such a venerable age that he was considered too fragile to give out for filming, and at Chanel he was completely recreated to the smallest detail especially for the film. Five tailors of the Fashion House worked on this. Their work took 1034 hours, 700 of which were taken by embroidery alone. As a result, the dress on Kristen sat so great that it was present in the frame much more than the timing previously planned for it.
However, in fairness, it is still worth noting that "Spencer: The Secret of Princess Diana" is more of a festival movie. His true connoisseurs at the Venice Film Festival applauded at the end of the tape, they say, more than usual. Most ordinary viewers will find the biopic too tragic and overshadowing the memory of the "ideal" Diana with her refined sense of taste, maternal devotion to her sons and boundless benevolence. Yes, perhaps the princess suffered some kind of mental anguish, but making her misunderstood crazy is too much …