Sundance Film Festival: ‘The Princess’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

After decades of processing Princess Diana’s untimely death, she continues to evoke mystery, glamour, and the quintessential modern fairy tale gone wrong. As we all know, Diana was the People’s Princess. This documentary directed by Ed Perkins highlights the struggle within the castle and in front of the cameras. She was a woman whose very presence left the monarchy and the media completely shaken. Her every move was documented which was the ultimate invasion of privacy. Whether she was performing her rightful duty to her country, being a mother to her sons, or navigating the media landscape, Princess Diana lost her sense of self and her public persona snowballed into something uncontrollable.

The documentary is crafted entirely from immersive archival footage and Perkins constructs a narrative that many did not see all those years ago. This was a more personal approach to Princess Diana’s story, as every piece of footage that was chosen showed the full spectrum of her emotions and her true story. Even with the media swarming her, she was always gracious and welcoming, but all of that takes a mental toll. We see the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana fall apart right in front of our eyes. The interviews and body language within them, show that there was a clear disconnect and something more was happening behind closed doors. Princess Diana had to deal with so much and still present herself as the person the media created.

Watching the lengths that the paparazzi went to just to snag one photo was sickening. Yes, the monarchy needed to change, but to make them populist ultimately changed the perception of the Crown itself. After everything Princess Diana had to go through publicly; her wedding, the birth of her two boys, the adultery, the suicide attempts, and even her life after Prince Charles, all of it was done to make the monarchy more relevant and it was just self-destructive. Sure, they’ve had scandals, but once you get the media involved, these scandals take on a life of its own. We see how harmful her living situation was to the full extent, leading to her eventual “death”. Perkins structured the story through the eyes of Princess Diana and her spirit came through with the archival footage. We saw her for who she was and how all of this was unfair to her and her children.

The Princess connects the people to Princess Diana once again, but Perkins managed to show her in a different light. Even though the documentary feels a bit by the numbers, Princess Diana’s story will haunt the monarchy forever. The fact that films are still being made today to show the unfair treatment from the Crown and the invasion of privacy from the media, proves that she will forever be an example of an injustice that no one will ever fully understand. The monarchy created a monster through the media that consumed one of their kindest members. The perfect image of their institution will forever be tainted by the stories that surrounded the People’s Princess.

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