Diana movie: avoid or must-see?

By admin
02 October 2013

It was with mixed feelings that our royal blogger left the movie theatre after watching a preview of the controversial Diana film.

I watched the filming of the movie Diana with interest. I knew I would watch the movie regardless of what anyone said about it. And I did. I walked into the theatre for a preview of the movie and waited almost breathlessly for the opening scenes. I had to go through it, and after a week’s brooding over it I still can’t say with certainty whether Diana is a must-see or a rather-avoid.

Diana on the left and Naomi Watts on the right in the movie Diana.

The problem with Naomi Watts

It was especially the shots of Naomi Watts (as Diana) from the back that got to me. The wig and the recognisable style of Diana’s clothes almost had me believing it could be Diana. Almost.

Diana had an inner beauty – an allure – that Watts couldn’t for a moment capture. Despite studying video material of Diana, learning her mannerisms and the wig and makeup, Watts couldn’t get under the skin of the Diana character.

There were moments in the movie when I wished Nicole Kidman or even Charlize Theron could have taken over the role of Diana – anything to get away from the superficial, one-dimensional portrayal. Kidman would have fleshed out the character, something Watts couldn’t manage.

Watts has already said it herself: she doesn’t resemble Diana, she’s not the right height, but that’s not the only reason her portrayal was such a miserable disappointment. The character Diana remained as one-dimensional as a paper doll with all the right outfits. One moment she’s paranoid, then she’s ecstatic, then in tears, then in love. Just like a Mills & Boon heroine.

Diana and Hasnat Khan in the movie

The problems with the facts

The problem also lies with the screenplay, which takes liberties with the facts. Look, Diana fans can even today, 17 years after her death, relate certain facts about her life with ease. You were in high school when she married so you “grew up with” Diana.

You know that seeing Diana’s relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan in isolation (and not mentioning the other names such as former England rugby captain Will Carling, cavalry officer James Hewitt, art dealer Oliver Hoare etc) is a mistake. Reducing the impact of her husband Prince Charles to just the “there were three of us in the marriage” comment she made during her Martin Bashir interview had me shaking my head. Both were to blame for the disintegration of their marriage and both had eyes for others.

By this time in her life Diana was, according to close friends, at her happiest. It was as if she’d begun to make peace with the ghosts of her past and she and Charles were comfortable in each other’s company – for the first time in years.

But her relationship with the Spencers was showing cracks. She and her younger brother had had a fall-out because she wanted to live in a cottage at Althorp, the family estate, and he objected to the great cost of security precautions that would be needed. Also, Diana and her mother weren’t speaking because her mom wasn’t happy that she’d had a relationship with a Muslim.

The real Hasnat Khan on the left and the more glamorous version played by Naveen Andrews in the movie. Hasnat Khan picture credit: Pan Media.

The portrayal of Khan

Hasnat Khan was and still is publicity shy. About the movie he said after seeing just a short preview he knew the portrayal of their relationship was a fabrication. But it’s perhaps because we know so little about Khan that his character in Diana is the most convincing. With no “real’’ knowledge to measure him against, Khan comes across as really in love with Diana the person, little concerned with her princess status, but also hard-headed enough to dictate the pace of their relationship. The silver screen Khan was played by the gorgeous actor Naveen Andrews (Sayid in the TV series Lost), because in real life he wouldn’t have turned heads.

Khan didn’t want to share Diana’s gilded-cage existence. They dreamed of building a heart hospital for the needy in Pakistan. As Khan has said, without her this plan is moving slowly. If only she was still alive . . .

Khan had a lush moustache, which for the purposes of the movie was left behind in the wardrobe department. Designer clothing wasn’t his thing and his home was, well, not near a railway track though Diana did tidy his flat and play house-house there. We must remember, for her it was an experience to stand in a queue like ordinary people, something to which she exposed her children when they were young.

And more errors

Then there are all the factual mistakes that bothered me. It was Paul Burrell, Diana’s bodyguard, who picked up Khan outside the hospital, hid him under a blanket and smuggled him into Kensington Palace. Not Diana. Also, when her relationship with Khan was up and running, she traded in her well-known Audi for a less noticeable BMW.

In the movie – all for dramatic effect Diana had four cellphones. Because she feared her calls were being tapped (which was what happened), she changed her number regularly. This got rid of people she didn’t want (for whatever reason) in her inner circle.

Khan tried to phone her that weekend in Paris but didn’t have her latest number. Diana’s cellphone was in her small clutch bag found in the wreck of the Mercedes, and not in a room in the Ritz Hotel as the movie shows.

The scene outside Kensington Palace where a tearful Khan lays down flowers for Diana is highly unlikely. But he was in Westminster Abbey for her funeral service, his heartache hidden behind big, black spectacles.

Having said all this, if you would like to relive a little of the Diana magic and are ready to see the movie as a fictitious version of her life then go see it. But if you’ll have trouble with the factual errors, stay away.

- Diana is on the big screen in South Africa from 18 October and is based on Kate Snell’s book, Diane, Her Last Love

-Arlene Prinsloo

Arlene Prinsloo is an ardent royalist, national content coordinator at Digital News: Media24 News and YOU’s royal blogger.

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