October Issue 2013
Diana in Distress
It takes a certain kind of talent to make a film so badly that one can’t even muse, ‘it’s so bad that it’s good,’ about it. Diana, a biopic about the late Princess of Wales, is nothing if not excruciatingly silly, appallingly cringeworthy and head-bangingly ridiculous. It easily ranks as the most unenjoyable movie-going experience of 2013.
It’s not that the cast and crew are not earnest in their efforts. Oliver Hirschbiegel (director of Downfall) is at the helm of the film and Naomi Watts plays the title role. So no matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise, these are by no means amateurs.
Diana follows the tragic princess’s last two years of life and her intimate relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), whom she met by chance while visiting a friend’s ailing husband in hospital. By focusing on such a short period of time in Lady Diana’s life, the film loses its interest value fairly early on.
The constant arguments Diana and Khan have about their future soon become irritating and predictable — she’s the most famous woman in the world and he absolutely detests media attention. This is fantastic material, but these are real people and nobody can know for sure what the lovers talked about in their private moments. All this speculation has led the writer to use terrible love talk, peppered with quotations by Rumi and set to musical interludes, be it French chansons d’amour or jazz.
Even though it’s clear from the beginning what will eventually happen to Lady Di (fine, I won’t spoil it for you if you have lived under a rock since August 31, 1997), and that there’s no apparent future for Diana and Hasnat, our princess still manages to somehow make her way to Lahore for an impromptu meeting with Hasnat’s family. What a surprise that her family doesn’t accept her as a suitable partner for Hasnat and that Hasnat’s mother mentions British imperialism as soon as she’s face to face with Diana. Later she apologises, but the dialogue certainly makes it seem that nobody in Pakistan is over the fact that the British ruled the subcontinent till 1947 and that Pakistanis can’t help but talk about it when engaging in a chit-chat with a Brit.
One comes out of Diana feeling almost depressed, and not because of what eventually happened to Lady Di, but because one has wasted two hours in the cinema. This is by no means a film fit for the big screen. Given its limp dialogue and soap-opera aesthetic, Diana is, at best, a made-for-television film to be seen on a random Sunday night. There is not a single redeemable quality to this wreck, which is sad, because were Diana a guilty pleasure, one could laugh at certain scenes, such as their disastrous first date during which Burger King saves the day.
This might sound funny, but it isn’t. This is stuff to feel sorry for. If this biopic had included more years in its ‘coverage’ of Lady Diana’s life, then one would have received a complete sense of the famed figure. By zeroing in on a particular relationship, her character comes across as ‘a mad bitch, a stalker, an attention-seeker and a princess who gets what she wants.’ Those are not my words; Diana actually says this about herself in the film.
Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany