SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! The afterlife of Princess Diana is alive more than ever, especially with the most recent addition to her legacy, The Princess, directed by Ed Perkins. Perkins brings an entirely new perspective to her life and the events that lead to her untimely death. From the onset, found footage in a moving car with a jittery hand-held camera and giddy narration foresees that something is afoot, and it appears to be significant.
Here Perkins lays the groundwork for this documentary, as it’s overflowing with found and archival footage, recovered audio, television show appearances, interviews, behind-the-scenes media, and more, much of which has not been seen or heard beyond England. This plethora of material took hundreds of hours to review, as Perkins constructs the timeline of Diana’s life. From a pre-engagement announcement in London as a young, innocent 18-year-old to the car accident that led to her and Dodi Fayed’s death in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France, the director unearths it all.
And what exists between the frames is what viewers use to understand the Princess of Wales. Perkins constructs Diana’s world, unbeknown to her future at 18, and the burden of living in the shadow of an archaic monarchy in need of change along with existing within the cold presence of Prince Charles. There also lurks the British press and paparazzi’s unbearable and ruthless eyes, who overstepped their boundaries, leading to her tragic fate. Meanwhile, England has economic issues and social unrest, including beyond the island in the Faulkland Islands. So it’s no surprise a country glommed on to a princess.
“…Perkins constructs the timeline of Diana’s life.”
Many of us grew up with Charles and Diana’s royal wedding, the birth of William and Harry, and the couple’s unprecedented royal divorce. Perkins makes no mistake about his choices to construct a version of this corner of history and its outcome as something we should all hold up as a mirror to ourselves. The Princess depicts each snarky language, unedited sarcasm, and downright nasty commenting and judging stare by every element of British media. From the street vendor magazine stands and newspaper deliveries to television and radio shows on every local, regional, national, and worldwide level, the constant harassment was appalling but so very British.
There are some interesting indirect messages Perkins may have built into the film. For example, Diana’s eyes are a continuous point of distinction, perhaps conveying a deeper soul than what appears in her royal demeanor and quiet persona. In addition, the filmmaker provides footage and audio from the paparazzi and their relentless pursuit of capturing Diana, who was one of the most photographed persons in the world. Comments from this peanut gallery reveal how unscrupulous a job it is or was.
For some, The Princess most likely has no meaning and is a waste of time when there are better things to care about in the world, and the titular princess appeared to have loved the spotlight. However, Perkins makes the case that Diana’s work and her connection to people had weight and meaning, especially in England. She utilized her role for the greater good and, as a result, was adored in England and abroad, upstaging the entire royal family with little to no effort. In fact, she continues to do so, as it appears, there are more deplorable goings-on among the royals than the extramarital affairs of Charles and Diana, Diana’s eating disorders, her innate beauty, and the many affectionate people who cared for her and about her. A nation held her close, and Perkins begs the question — doesn’t that matter?
The Princess screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
"…Perkins brings an entirely new perspective to her life..."