By Kaitlin Dunn
On Nov. 5, “Spencer” was released in theaters across the United States. The film is a historical drama that follows the life of Princess Diana, née Diana Spencer, as is the film’s title.
Written by Steven Knight, “Spencer” greets its audience with a phrase: “A fable from a true tragedy.”
“The true tragedy, of course, is the dark story of the late princess’ life, which included a turbulent marriage to Prince Charles, the pressure of being a member of the royal family, and facing unrelenting scrutiny from the public and the media,” TIME magazine writer Cady Lang said.
Director Pablo Larraín, while not the first to direct a biopic on Princess Diana, is the first to directly state that his film is not entirely fact.
“Many things are real facts — the context, the events that actually did happen,” Larraín said. “But once you are inside, once the doors are closed, all you have is a sort of fiction and we just imagine how could that be, but always understanding that we’re not doing a documentary. We’re doing a fable.”
The film stars actress Kristen Stewart, and while she is most well known for her work in the “Twilight” franchise, this is not the first time she has acted in films of this caliber. Despite doubts people had about her being cast as Diana, Larraín feels strongly about her casting in the film.
“[Stewart] can be very mysterious on camera and I connected that with the mystery that Diana had,” Larraín said. “She’s able to have a very expressive and strong internal world that she’s always breathing and that’s how we connect.”
The film is set over three days during the 1991 Christmas holidays at the Sandringham, one of the royal family’s country estates.
“The movie offers a glimpse of Diana’s innermost thoughts and feelings as imagined by Larraín, amid the purported real-life tensions within the royal family and the dissolution of her marriage,” Lang said.
Larraín does an excellent job at making the watcher feel the suffocation that Diana experiences within the film. The film manages to make you feel trapped in the setting and overall tone as you watch Diana.
Despite the fact that the film only chronicles a three-day period of time, it feels like you are watching years of Diana’s life, emphasizing the exhaustion and trapped feelings she may have felt as she lived her life as a member of the British royal family.
For many critics of the film, the overarching opinion of Stewart’s Princess Diana is that she provides a necessary bitterness that is not present in other portrayals of her.
“Unlike other overly polished portraits of the Princess of Wales, ‘Spencer’ aims to humanize Diana in ways that aren’t always entirely flattering,” Third Coast Review critic Lisa Trifone said.
Perhaps that is the intrigue of Larraín’s film. The bitterness that Stewart brings to the role coupled with the fact that Larraín begins the film by stating that it is a fable leaves people wanting to know more about this version of Princess Diana’s story.
Diana is a constant in pop culture, even all these years following her death, and perhaps that lore and fable surrounding what happened in her life is what keeps people coming back for more.
“I hope it’s another element on culture that could maybe show to the world what a fascinating person she was and there’s a reason why millions around the world remained so interested in her,” Larraín said. “I’m sure other movies and TV shows and documentaries will come because there’s an enormous amount of humanity that she carried that really serves to be told and this is another version, another angle, and I hope it makes sense for people.”
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, remains an iconic figure in media depictions.