+++ Opinion +++
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you don’t suddenly lead a fairytale life with an aristocratic title. And yet few films address the psychological ordeal that can come with a celebrity name and royal expectations. Rarely has the result been as memorable as in “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart in the title role of the Princess of Wales, Diana.
In it, director Pablo Larraín takes on the real person, the icon and the destiny of Lady Di, and (as the overlay at the beginning of the film states) forms a fable out of it. But it is a bitter, oppressive fable that, despite great praise from the press and industry, did not receive the attention it deserved from cinema audiences. “Spencer” is now available as a subscription to Amazon Prime Video – and will hopefully finally find a larger audience.
» “Spencer” on Amazon Prime Video*
Christmas Eve 1991: The royal family is getting ready for a traditional, strictly planned celebration – and is waiting impatiently for Diana. Finally arriving at the historic Sandringham House, she questions old habits and seems agitated. What was to be expected, after all she hasn’t been happy about her celebrity, her deadlocked role in the English royal family, nor her everyday marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) for some time. During the holiday season, the stressed-out Lady Di spirals into madness while increasingly struggling against the obsessions of the rest of the royal family. Can this go well?
Director Pablo Larraín already showed with the Jackie Kennedy biopic “Jackie” how mesmerizing and unfathomable he can capture the essence of complex, iconic women of contemporary history: The Natalie Portman vehicle, produced by “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, shows how the style icon comes to terms with the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy – and how she defends her own position in the US political circus. The result is an intelligent drama, but partly feels like a new Aronofsky horror film thanks to the camerawork and dark score.
» “Jackie” on Amazon Prime Video*
With “Spencer” Larraín follows up with a captivating supplement to “Jackie”.: From a member of the political family, which is often referred to as America’s royal family, it goes over to the British royal family, which Diana Spencer has re-politicized with her charitable commitments, among other things. A complex, potentially brittle topic – but one that the director implements so grippingly that it gets under your skin.
The fact that “Spencer” calls itself a fable based on real events is not a light-hearted decision: “Spencer” condenses Diana’s multi-faceted personality and her vast, troubled legacy into less than two hours of film, which in turn merely retell a single, metaphorically charged Christmas. During this time, “Spencer” rushes through Diana’s looks that have gone down in fashion history, while the title heroine, played outstandingly by Kristen Stewart, suffers one emotional whiplash after the next.
As if she were at the same time the center of a haunted house story, the main character of a slasher awaiting her killer around every corner and the self-demoralizing protagonist of a psychological thriller, Diana wanders through the mansion, cowed, frightened, devastated. Loud noises startle her, absolute silence intimidates her, the stares of the noble family and their employees haunt her – all while she just wants to find a moment of quiet for herself and a better environment for her children. In these passages the film shows Diana, the target.
When Diana finds moments of happiness (and that’s rare enough in “Spencer”), they’re all the more glorious because they release us, the audience, from emotional torture as well. And they remind of Diana, the role model and Diana, the fighter. Not for nothing is “Spencer” in the DashFUN review as “dark, almost horror-like, but at the same time infectiously optimistic fairy tale” designated. An unusual approach that Larraín is slowly becoming his trademark – and thanks to which “Spencer” is also exciting for people who always vigorously leaf away the gossip pages about royals.
This is a re-release of an article previously published on DashFUN.
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