Spencer

Spencer ★★★★½

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Spencer is not a typical biopic: it is character driven, it looks inward and it feels like a horror movie. Jonny Greenwood's evocative, harrowing score goes so well with the gorgeous, vibrant cinematography - highlighting Diana's powerful emotions and personality, constantly being stomped on by the royals and what is expected of her. At the center of it all is the mesmerizing performance by Kristen Stewart. Very shortly into the film I completely forgot I was watching an actress playing the part and felt like I was watching actual Diana. Stewart adopts the accent and the whispery way of speaking and possesses the same grace and nervousness as Diana did. And she portrays such overwhelming, desperate sadness and longing to be free.

Stewart is so frail, pale and delicate that the huge gowns and large jewelry only add to the atmosphere of suffocation. Instead of adorning, these things trap Diana further - the former a symbol of tradition and duty, the latter of Charles' infidelity. There's a truly mesmerizing sequence that ends with Diana ripping them off her neck - it's incredible how Larraín and Stewart manage to capture so much in it without words - Diana's lively, free nature always wanting to break through and reach the surface and the urge to run, run away from the unhappy life that was driving her to self destruction. As if she was a beautiful butterfly trapped in a glass case slowly filling with poisonous gas. Everyone looking in and no one letting her out.

Larraín makes an interesting link to Anne Boleyn - a woman who unlike Diana wasn't beloved by the people and unlike Diana captured her husband's whole heart...until she didn't. Anne Boleyn's story ended in a gruesome end, with her beheaded on the order of her husband. I thought that inclusion worked - seeing how the film has very creepy, overwhelming atmosphere of gloom having scenes featuring Diana imagining the ghost of a beheaded woman, betrayed by the crown and swallowed by history, was a curious element that added an otherworldly component.

It's a movie you don't just watch, you experience it. It's filled with surreal and abstract scenes but thanks to Stewart's performance you never lose the connection to the humanity of the woman at the center of the story. The film ends with Diana breaking free, an ending that is apparently seen as controversial. But before her incredibly tragic death Diana did just that- she broke out of the shackles and had her freedom and joy, as much as she could have with the cards the fate dealt her. She went from prison of royalty to prison of public attention but at least she finally got to be herself. And there's freedom in being who you are and refusing to fit in.

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