Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel headed up the well publicised bio-drama, Diana, starring Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts as the Princess of Wales. The film, which has been met with much resistance from within the world of cinema, focuses on the last two years of Diana’s life and her relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). Despite its best efforts to recapture the majestic aura of the much loved ‘People’s Princess’, Hirschbiegel’s attempt to make it personable and relatable to an audience who find the subject still so emotive falls woefully short of expectations.
The film quickly deteriorates into a very uncomfortable tale of forbidden love between Diana and Hasnat Khan as they meet for the first time whilst the Princess is visiting her father in the hospital. Lacking any kind of chemistry or charisma, the fall-out of the relationship spreads itself out awkwardly over nearly two hours of film. Watts, a talented actress in her own right, faced a losing battle from the off. Too her own admittance she does not look like Diana, an issue that can be forgiven if the performance is strong enough. Unfortunately for Watts, the lacklustre script which seemed more suited for a channel 5 TV movie than the big screen, lets her down. The causal nature of the conversations are as unconvincing as Watts’ many wigs, fitting more comfortably with the image of two teenagers sharing a pint in the Queen Vic than between a Princess and her lover.
The world fell in love with Diana for her easy nature and social awareness, such as her superb work in Africa. This was touched upon, but Watts’ nature on screen appeared more uncomfortable than you ever imagined Diana of being in front of the watching world.
Much of the dialogue is based on pure speculation and guess work which was evident through many awkward, and what seemed extremely unnatural, exchanges between Diana and Hasnat Khan. Diana was portrayed as an obsessive in her pursuit of Khan; she was often left frustrated that they could never see a future with their relationship. Although there may well be some truth to such a representation, its awkwardness and sheer lack of anything actually happening between the two of them other than the playing out of the tired “Will they/won’t they?” relationship conundrum makes for an extremely dull love story. The supposed obsessional side of Diana was also highlighted by the films ending, which brushes aside her relationship with millionaire Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) as simply an act of trying to make Khan jealous and nothing more.
Diana will live in the hearts of many people for as long as they live. The effect she has on such a wide demographic was quite frankly extraordinary. For anyone who felt they shared this connection with the ‘People’s Princess’, Hirschbiegel’s portrayal of Diana will not be for you. The films casual nature did not come off as personable, but lazy and uncomfortable. Some critics claim it was simply “too soon” to produce such a film about a woman so widely loved. This is certainly debatable, but the manner in which it focuses so prominently on speculation and rumour surrounding her love affair with Dr Khan leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth.