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What does Ed Perkins’ “The Princess” say about society?

It draws solely on contemporaneous archival audio and video footage to take the audience back to key events in Diana’s life, including her seemingly fairytale public courtship and marriage, the birth of her two sons, and her and Charles’ acrimonious divorce and Diana’s untimely death at age 36 on August 31, 1997.

The film unfolds as if it were in the present, allowing viewers to experience the overwhelming adoration but also the intense scrutiny of Diana’s every move and the constant judgment of her character.

The princess is the British director’s third documentary (he was nominated for an Oscar for his 2018 documentary, Black sheep, on a black teenager’s experience of racism). He was 11 when Diana was killed (a year younger than Prince Harry) and says while her death has been covered at length most efforts have tried to “get inside her head”.

Perkins says the film primarily serves as a reflection of the society of the time, revealing the public’s own concerns, fears, aspirations and desires.

“The part of the story that I personally find more interesting and that I feel has been underexplored isn’t ‘What does this story say about Diana?’ But what does Diana’s story actually say about all of us?” he says.

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“The piece of the puzzle that instinctively drew me in is what does that say about our fascination? What does it say about our needs? What does it say about our desires? The whole reason we constructed the film entirely from archives, the only reason we didn’t use headshot interviews and some sort of retrospective analysis, is that we want the film to hold a mirror up to us all.

“What I think is the hardest thing to talk about is what was our role in this story? What was our active role? What was our complicity in this tragic story?”

There are very few revelations in the film, which chronicles Diana’s life from just before announcing her engagement to Prince Charles to her death. And Perkins says after watching literally hundreds of hours of footage of Diana, he still hasn’t really got to know her.

Viewers see Diana not only through the eyes of the media, in old interviews and shows, but also through vox pops on TV news and current affairs programs. He says while the film “may not be a revelation,” it “offers a new perspective.”

“A lot of people talk about it being almost like a blank canvas onto which we could all project our own hopes, dreams and fears. And maybe that’s one of the reasons people, so many different people, have found a seemingly personal connection with her.”

Does the film make a connection between Diana's life and today's royal crises? Director Ed Perkins says it's up to the audience.

Does the film make a connection between Diana’s life and today’s royal crises? Director Ed Perkins says it’s up to the audience.

The film uses part of a five-minute play of the now infamous panorama Interview Diana gave to BBC journalist Martin Bashir in 1995, in which she broke her silence on Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, saying: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

The interview – seen by 23 million people – contributed to Diana’s 1996 divorce from Charles. In May last year, a report by British judge Lord Dyson found that Bashir had tricked Diana into the interview using forged documents allegedly showing staff members took money from her in exchange for spreading stories about her in the media . The report also found that BBC bosses were trying to cover it up.

Perkins defends the use of the interview, shown briefly and in context, as a historical record moment.

“I think Diana’s life became sort of a national sitcom, sort of a soap opera, for many years. One of the questions the film raises is: we want the fairy tale, but at what price and at whose expense? These are real stories about real people, and we’ve approached them with the sensitivity and respect they deserve,” he said.

Flowers left outside Kensington Palace by mourners after the death of the 36-year-old princess.

Flowers left outside Kensington Palace by mourners after the death of the 36-year-old princess.

As for whether he can make a connection to modern-day crises within the family, Perkins says it’s up to viewers to form their conclusions. But he became more sympathetic, especially towards Princes William and Harry.

“You know, this isn’t a film that’s trying to be pro-monarchy or anti-monarchy, pro-Diana or anti-Diana. We tried to tell a complex story with ease and nuance,” he says.

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“But I think there’s some ways we can see this story as sort of an origin story for some of the things that’s happened more recently within the royal family, but also for the kind of ongoing evolving relationship between us that is.” Monarchy and public figures.”

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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/movies/what-does-our-fascination-with-princess-diana-say-about-us-20220811-p5b94y.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture What does Ed Perkins’ “The Princess” say about society?

Jaclyn Diaz

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