Wayne’s review published on Letterboxd:
A fable from a true tragedy
"Their Lenses Are More Like Microscopes, Really. And I'm The Insect In The Dish. See, They're Pulling My Wings And My Legs Off One By One- Making Notes On How I React."
To put it delicately, Princess Diana has simply not just been one of the most famous and influential figures this world has ever had the privilege to bear witness, but quite simply also one of the most ethereal human beings that carry such mythical tale towards their legacy on this very earth. With The Princess of Wales not just being a Princess for her country but also the People’s Princess, the late Diana has always been and still is, one of the most talked-about figures of all time, and for good reason, whether it be for the good, or for the more polarizing conspiracies.
With an immense amount of biographies and biopics out there especially in motion pictures, most spectacles that tackle the subject of Her Royal Highness seem rather substandard to say the least as it just opts for a safer route and ends up acting as a mundane trivial piece. However, as for the case of this 2021 motion picture directed by Pablo Larrain, that just doesn’t seem to be the case. And if anything, this 2021 spectacle entitled Spencer is simply one of the greatest films I have seen in a while as this would be my pick for the best picture and many many more categories such as best cinematography and best production.
As a motion picture that tackles the impression of Diana’s entrapment within The Royal Family, Pablo Larrain paints a spectacle that chronicles the Christmas weekend of the Royal Family, and more importantly, Princess Diana’s final weekend as a Royal. Essentially being a fictionalized version on a tale of a real person, this piece of art is one magical mixture of entertainment and enlightenment in the sense that it’s a great spectacle that doesn’t just spotlight such a profound impression on Diana’s life, but also how it features one of the most powerful slow-burning art-house-esque characters studies on entrapment and wanting to break free I have seen in recent time.
As the film starts and gets ready to set the tone for what would be a slow-burning pace as we voyage on this weekend alongside Diana as the narrative unfolds from her perspective, the immersion to the mood is simply one of the most effortless orchestrations I have witnessed in the past years' new films. Essentially placing Diana to be lost and not being able to find her way into the Sandringham Estate, it echoes and foreshadows what would be the main theme of the spectacle as we see her not only literally lost, but also figuratively lost once events unfold later on. As she finally arrives for the weekend, a sense of relief is yet to be unearthed as the pressure of being a Royal is still intact with each member of the Royal Family being present and as intimidating as ever.
And once Diana finally settles down and arrives in the Palace, this is just where the horror just gets started as the clouding claustrophobia starts, with Diana essentially trapped in the Palace with nothing she wants to do aside from being with her kids. With not much of a coherent narrative seen yet during the first half of the film, Pablo Larrain takes the time to build up a bond between the protagonist and the audiences as well as Diana’s great relationship with her kids, courtesy of the slow-burning pace being told through Diana’s perspective as we get to feel every ounce and nuance of emotions that burst from each scene.
Moreover, as we audiences find ourselves in rhythm by the time we are fully immersed into the scene, so to speak, it’s made clear that this is not about the Diana the world knows, but rather the Diana no one knows about as we witness such horrifying things that happen within Diana’s inner psyche. As the entrapment of being in the Royal Family intensifies even more due to this dull stay in Sandringham Palace, Diana only finds a little bit of hope and that’s through her two children and her dresser Maggie.
Nevertheless, this is all she needs as we see how utterly miserable her situation is becoming. As we, later on, witness the entirely dead marriage between the Prince and Princess of Wales through Charles’ emotionless character (symbolizing the lack of attention he gives Diana), This cements the main narrative to start boiling, and that’s how Diana wants to let loose and break free. Aided by more ethereal montages that showcase Diana’s visual illusions depicting paranoia and expressing her feelings of dread and figurative claustrophobia, not only is the substance being articulated in the best way possible but also the utmost proficient use of style is guided by the elemental score and ethereal world-class cinematography.
As the latter part of the film unfolds, this is where Diana finally gets to meet her character arc thanks to the help of a few people like her children and Maggie as they give her all the hope she needs to break away. With feelings of love and encouragement being shown by Maggie, Harry, and William, this amplifies Diana to finally confront reality and move on as she cuts her Christmas weekend short and heads back to London with her children wherein she feels most at home. And as a result, the film ends in such a manner that also satisfies the audience so profoundly as we’ve been watching the spectacle from Diana’s perspective, meaning, we’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
In the grand scheme of things, the film may have started in a mood that may seem so dreadful and hopeless to escape, but in the end, it’s always how you find any bit of hope to overcome in life. Sadly, I really don’t think that was how things unfolded for the late Princess of Wales, but nevertheless, she is survived by her two extraordinary sons in future king Prince William, and his Royal Highness Prince Harry. In the end, Spencer is both an informative historical landmark in time as well as a thought-provoking character study aided by such complementary in style resulting in substance. Of course, led by Kristen Stewart’s magnificent performance as Princess Diana, it just gives the perfect cherry on top. To simply put it, a grand tour-de-force indelibly edged in time by one of cinema’s greatest artists working today in Pablo Larrain.
In watching the film, there were some symbols I picked up from beginning to end as it also adds to the wonderful cinematic experience this motion picture has given me.
Symbols underlying the character study of Diana’s entrapment within the Royal Family:
In one of the first lines, Diana says: “I have absolutely no idea where I am”
Diana being literally lost at the start not being able to find her way into Sandringham Estate
Dead Marriage with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
The black dress Diana wants to wear to contrast the Palace
Black pool ball
Visual illusions of surreal imagery to represent the paranoia
Anne Boleyn represents who Diana is in the modern Royal Family
Little symbols of hope:
Diana’s sons His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge Prince William and His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex Prince Harry