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Last years of the ‘people’s princess’

Last years of the ‘people’s princess’

After panned by British press, biopic ‘Diana’arrives in Korean theaters next month

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Published : 2014-02-24 19:29
Updated : 2014-02-24 19:29

A scene from “Diana.” (Pure Pictures International Korea)
After receiving negative reviews from the British press, “Diana,” a biopic on the Princess of Wales, is arriving in Korean theaters next month. The film features the private heartaches of the late princess, whose high-profile marriage to Prince Charles, divorce, and style, made her one of the biggest icons of the 20th century.

Directed by German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel, the film deals with the last two years of Diana’s life after she finally divorced Prince Charles in 1995. Starring as the lonely, sometimes hysterical, princess is Australian actress Naomi Watts, who pulls off Diana’s upper-class British accent and signature hairstyle. The movie follows her affair with English-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Ahmad Khan, as well as her relationship with Egyptian Dodi Fayed, who died with her in the tragic car crash in 1997.

Watts delivers a sympathetic performance as the princess, who was not happy in the family she was born into and later became miserable in her disastrous marriage. She seeks intimacy in her relationship with Khan (Naveen Andrews), who eventually grows weary of Diana’s fame. He loves her, but does not love her enough to give up his self-made success and anonymity to be with her. Andrews’ Khan is hardly likeable; he is whiny and indecisive, and in general lacks chemistry with Watts.

The movie’s screenplay, written by Stephen Jeffreys based on Kate Snell’s 2001 book “Diana: Her Last Love,” does not include viewpoints from the queen and Prince Charles. It could’ve been a conscious decision in an attempt to focus on Diana’s life after the divorce. But in spite of Watts’ trying performance, the princess in the film lacks nuance and dimension. In many scenes, she looks like another tragic romance film heroine, who is desperate, victimized and in need of reassurance. While such a depiction isn’t entirely unconvincing, it does not offer anything new.

Hirschbiegel’s reconstruction of Diana’s charity and humanitarian work, including her visit to Africa to raise awareness of land mines, is arguably the worst part of the film. The minute Watts looks at the victims they either break down in tears or magically engage with her ― as if they’ve received a visit by some living saint. Perhaps that is what really happened when Diana visited them, but the scenes remind the viewers of a propaganda video or TV commercial for World Vision.

What is enjoyable to witness is Watts donning a number of iconic dresses similar to those worn by the late princess, who was often dubbed “the world’s most photographed woman.” Jacques Azagury, who was Princess Diana’s favorite designer for red carpet events in the last five years of her life, helped create garments for Watts in the film. One of the costumes is a slightly altered version of the famous ice blue dress by Azagury, which Diana wore to see the ballet “Swan Lake” in 1997. The film isn’t entirely awful and offers an opportunity for the viewers to witness what made the tragic icon so popular on the big screen: her style, her unhappiness and her fate.

“Diana” opens in theaters on March 6.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)

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