Absurd, twaddle, a shameless cash-in, an orgy of conspiracy theories – not exactly the sort of words a filmmaker dreams of hearing from reviewers when he releases his work.
But the filmmaker in question had to expect it: the subject of his movie is one of the most dissected, debated, sensitive issues in recent British history and many believe it should have been left alone.
In fact Unlawful Killing, a documentary about the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, started making waves even before it hit the screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Director Keith Allen – who is also an actor, comedian and the father of singer Lily Allen – was criticised for his decision to include a paparazzo’s close-up picture of the injured Diana moments after the crash.
Use of the black-and-white image has been called crass and in bad taste yet 57-year-old Allen defended it, saying, “My intention was not to shock.
“The picture is included as evidence because it shows clearly that, although Diana had been injured in the crash, she was very much alive. I repeat: it’s not a picture of a dying woman.”
The point he’s trying to drive home, he stresses, is that Diana could have been saved if she’d been helped earlier.
Allen believes the people behind her death didn’t want her to be saved.
And supporting his theory is the man who hasn’t been able to move on since that terrible night in Paris’ Pont de l’Alma tunnel – Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father.
The billionaire injected £2,5 million (about R28 million) into Allen’s movie, hoping the truth would finally come out.
He has always claimed sinister forces were behind the catastrophic car crash – and the fact Diana seemed to predict her death in a letter to her butler years earlier supported his belief.
Al Fayed is hoping Allen’s movie will sway public opinion but it seems he could have spent his money better. The kindest thing critics have said about the film is that it’s “entertaining”.
But several people in the audience at the Cannes screening clearly didn’t find it compelling, leaving halfway through.
“This scattergun film can only backfire on the conspiracy theorists who cling to the notion that speeding through a Paris tunnel with a drunken driver at the wheel isn’t a plausible cause of death,” a critic writing for Reuters news agency said.
“If the Monty Python troupe ever wanted to lampoon conspiracy-theory filmmakers it would be hard to top this one.”
Unlawful Killing blames everyone from Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, to the British Secret Intelligence Service, the French government and even arms dealers for being behind the crash – the latter because of Diana’s strong support for the campaign to ban landmines.
Prince Philip comes across particularly badly and is portrayed as a psychopath with Nazi connections who orchestrated the tragedy.
As for the rest of the royal family, Allen describes them as racist “mafia in tiaras” who were so desperate to ensure Diana didn’t marry Dodi and produce a Muslim half-sibling for William and Harrythey agreed that she be bumped off.
The film suggests Henri Paul, the driver of the ill-fated black Mercedes, was working for the secret service and deliberately crashed the car in a suicide mission for the cause.
Another theory is that the crash wasn’t supposed to kill Diana but serve as a warning that she should “toe the line”.
Allen also claims the media have been involved in a cover-up for years, failing to tell the truth for fear of angering the monarchy.
The film starts with Allen telling viewers it isn’t a documentary but “simply a father’s search for the truth”.
There’s an interview with celebrity psychologist Oliver James who, apart from branding Philip a psychopath, claims the prince was once spotted at a party wearing a leather jacket and dancing to the Rolling Stones with his hand up a woman’s skirt – a snippet that drew howls from the critics.
Various conspiracy theories are also supported in interviews with journalist Lauren Booth, sister of former British first lady Cherie Blair; Piers Morgan, the disgraced former editor of the Daily Mirror and now a talk-show host in America; and Diana’s alternative therapist, Simone Simmons.
And of course Al Fayed has plenty to say too. Read all about it in YOU, 26 May 2011. CLICK HERE to follow us on Twitter.