3 stars
Was she ‘the people’s princess’ or the Queen of Hearts with “a brain the size of a pea” (her own words) or was she simply a girl caught like a rabbit in royal headlights, with no idea which way to turn? Whatever the case, she made a bit of a nuisance of herself and was subsequently branded a loose cannon by the Establishment. This ambiguity opens the door for bio-pics like Diana, a story based on Kate Snell’s book Diana: Her Last Love, which detailed the last two years of the life of Diana, the Princess of Wales. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who was also responsible for that far superior biopic Downfall, on the last few hours of Adolph Hitler’s life, this movie lands somewhere between myth creation and soap opera.

The film opens with a recreation of the scene where Diana (Naomi Watts – The Impossible / King Kong) and Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar – Argo / Source Code) descend in the lift at The Ritz Hotel, in Paris, on that fateful night in August 1997. They are flanked by her bodyguard and a male who resembles the driver who was blamed for her death, Henri Paul. At this point Diana fans will feel those tears ready to flow! It also sets the scene for the cameras to roll back two years and cover the little-known romance the Princess of Wales had with the Pakistani heart surgeon, Doctor Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews – TV series Lost / The English Patient).

At that time Diana was separated from Prince Charles and was, according to this storyline, grappling with a lack of self-esteem, depression, loneliness and estrangement from her children. She meets Khan in a lift at a London Hospital and becomes infatuated with him and his ability to save lives, referring to him as ‘Mr. Wonderful’. Meanwhile Khan treats her as a ‘normal’ person and gives her the affection and attention (albeit on his terms) she yearns for. As the relationship develops, both parties realise it is an impossible union and this is where the script starts to go into over-drive, for there are scenes that leave you a bit agog: like when Diana dons a brunette wig to go unnoticed on her dates with the doctor, or scales backyard fences to escape the paparazzi, or goes on a bit of a stalking campaign to try and keep the relationship happening. You get the picture. It may well be a load of ol’ twaddle, but even if some of it is true it makes you feel for Naomi Watts, who manages to deliver a pretty good performance from what many may consider an appalling script; she does her best to channel Diana. Andrews also does a pretty good job portraying a man who is caught between his dedication to his profession and his love for ‘the most famous woman in the world.’

Filmed in numerous locations across London, including interior shots of both Diana’s and Kahn’s apartments, it’s all crisply caught by Rainer Klausmann’s lens. We also go on trips to Pakistan, Italy, Bosnia and even Australia – all faithfully reconstructed in other parts of the world according to the credits. The final shot of the flowers outside Kensington Palace reminds us of the extraordinary outpouring of grief that marked the British public’s reaction to her death. Perhaps this film will make some people feel happy in the knowledge that Diana may have found some joy in the last few months of her life with Khan and Fayed. Others may feel that was she was cruelly manipulating Fayed to make the good doc jealous. All we can be sure about is that we will never know the real truth about any of it, and Hirschbiegel’s version of events will only add to the confusion.


Previewed at Dendy Newtown on 4 October 2014



Naomi Watts
Naveen Andrews
Douglas Hodge
Cas Anvar

Oliver Hirschbiegel

Stephen Jeffreys

UK / France


113 minutes

October 10, 2013
Diana (2013) on IMDb
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