The life of Princess Diana has been explored heavily in TV and film over the past few years and that is to be understood as we approach the 25th anniversary of her death. When it was announced that there would be a Sundance documentary about the tragic figure one might have assumed they would witness another cliche depiction about the doomed Princess, but director Ed Perkins has discovered a unique format of telling the story of her life in a way so impactful and crushing.
The Princess made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and may be the breakout hit of the fest. Told chronologically entirely through archival footage, Perkins tells the story of Princess Diana’s life from her first interview until her funeral.
Without the use of a narrator or modern day interviews, The Princess tell the story of Diana as it happens. From a woman following her in the streets to get confirmation that Prince Charles has asked her to be his wife, to the fateful BBC interview where Diana comes clean with her eating disorder, their infidelities, and regrets on marrying Charles, her entire life is played out in a briskly paced 100 minutes.
It is hard to imagine the incredible undertaking of the documentary crew going through decades of archival footage. From papparazzi turning the cameras on themselves, to home video footage of people on the night of Diana’s death Perkin’s captures a time capsule of the massive impact she had.
Perkin’s acknowledged the story of Diana has been told many times before but he was especially drawn to tell it in this way. By the events playing out in real time, Perkins hoped that without hindsight bias it may push the audience to view Diana’s life and death in a different way.
The bold choice of no narrator and no manipulation of the timeline create what feels like the most honest depiction of the troubles Diana was experiencing. It is clear in nearly every interview, press conference, or forced interruption of a walk through an airport terminal that Diana was experiencing levels of sadness and anguish that are hard to watch. And as she escapes the Royal family and her broken marriage we start to see someone who smiles, who is finding herself, and living a life she never had the chance to, until one tragic night in Paris.
With The Crown, and Spencer receiving so much buzz and attention, I believe The Princess will prove to be required viewing for those fans. The Princess paints a moving, haunting, unmanipulated portait of the tumultuous life Diana stumbled into. It captures her importance in a time not so long ago and the global impact her life made. As recent news of Prince Harry and wife Megan stepping back in their duties to the throne, it brings to light a style of life that is so hard to fathom and what little we know of what actually exists behind the Palace doors.
The Princess is truly an incredible success by Ed Perkins.