By Dana Alexander ‘22
“A fable from a true tragedy.” An ominous line that serves as the stepping stone for the thriller that lies ahead.
The film Spencer is not something that can be summed up as a biographical picture. To do so would tarnish the masterfully crafted genre-bending narrative of the story. On the surface, we see Princess Diana in the final stages of her royal life.
However, once we’re allowed a more substantial examination, we find a prisoner, a woman who is trapped within the soul-crushing confines of the Royal Family; while also dealing with constant involuntary dissection from the media.
These themes are what drive the feverish nature of Diana’s thoughts in the film, showing a person whose subconscious is forcing her into a personal hell due to the external factors and unacknowledged issues of the past. In this state of having no grip of her choices and thoughts, the character of Diana becomes more determined to escape.
A screening of this magnitude required the assembling of my merry men of cinephiles. Our flock congregated at my home to watch the film. In the first opening shots, we felt like we’d been transported to a forbidden world.
The bewildering awe-inspiring cinematography feels like watching fully realized Van Gogh’s playing out on screen. The still wide shots are beautiful enough to warm the coldest cynics’ souls. The fact that the Academy Awards didn’t even nominate this film for Best Cinematography is a crime to the highest degree.
Pablo Larrain directed this film in a way that didn’t make it feel like a run-of-the-mill biographical film. Instead, he manufactured a glorious character study, painting Princess Diana as a woman who’s trapped in a period of antediluvian decadence.
The shot of Diana driving down a winding road is something that still stands out to me. The winding roads feel as if one is traveling through a morbid cycle of life, continuously growing from young to old and never changing.
The score of this film is nothing short of a triumph. Johnny Greenwood somehow found a way to make the score feel like an excerpt from Diana’s heart, highlighting the immense sorrow she felt with Prince Charles; while also painting the internal horrors that plagued her.
“The way it helps create a solid narrative without embellishing is truly astonishing,” said Danny Hartz ‘22. The way the film was able to achieve this was due to the brilliant motifs sprinkled throughout the screenplay.
From the uncanny parallel between Princess Diana and Anne Boleyn, the hallucinations of her past life, or the scenes where she imagines her suicide, the motif I found most profound was the moments when she wanted to just feel something.
In those moments she’s reckless, not afraid of the consequences of not playing the royal puppet. The underlying tension in these scenes was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
“I enjoyed the mild horror elements used to tell the story of Princess Diana uniquely and refreshingly,” said Pat Swanson, a senior at St. Rita High School. The horror that lies in the film is the thought of becoming complacent. For Diana, it was sacrificing the last remaining semblance of her humanity.
This film is an incredible revitalization of vehicle films for actors. Kristen Stewart’s performance was nothing like portrayals of royals in films of the past. For two hours, she is Diana, encompassing the traits and mannerisms that made up the 20th-century martyr we’ve come to know today.
The genius in her performance lies in her subtlety. Choosing to let Diana’s anguish and despair be displayed gradually; instead of sensationalizing it. An additionally stellar performance came from Sally Hawkins, as Maggie the dresser. The conversation she and Diana had on the beach near the end of the film is poignant to the point where you never want it to end.
“An interesting dramatization of the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana,” said Matt Durkin, a senior at St. Rita High School. Prince Charles, as portrayed on screen, is a man full of disdain and toxicity towards his wife.
He quietly mocks her bulimia and joins the other members of his family in painting her as a pariah. The moment the film came full circle is when Diana visits her childhood home. In the fast paced vivid walk down memory lane, we see Diana question the very meaning of her existence.
It’s during a conversation with Anne Boleyn that Diana finds something she’s been lacking the entire film – courage. She rips off her pearl necklace, signifying her freedom from the grasps of Charles and the Royal Family.
In the final shots of her in London with her sons, we see a vindicated Diana. A person who’s granted the gift of normalcy in her life. This film is not a slander piece, nor is it a tribute to Princess Diana.
Its main goal is to present the flaws and insecurities that made her a human being, to take away the veil of sainthood we’ve granted her; and instead, amplify the mistakes and weaknesses that made her an icon.