Spencer

Spencer ★★★★★

The portrait of a trapped woman who was not made to be trapped. 

A slight warning: I am in complete awe and adoration of this movie and there are so many overlapping thoughts and emotions in my head so I will attempt to compile words together in a somewhat eligible way but it may just be end up being a gushing piece of waffle which I will have to refine at a later date. 

I was so excited to see Spencer. Although I’ve only recently seen Jackie, which I adored, I already admired Diana for her bravery and boldness and she is long overdue a beautiful biopic in her honour. And wasn’t Pablo Larraín’s quiet and focussed perspective such a perfect way to capture this amazing woman. Spencer doesn’t feel like a biopic, and I don’t even think it is. Technically it is meant to be fictional, as it focusses on a short three day period in which Diana spends a Christmas with the Royal Family near her childhood home. Although there is no way of proving whether these actual events shown to us happened, what the story shows in terms of emotions and themes, are completely and utterly accurate to Diana and her story. 

Straight away she is shown as an outsider, driving herself to the family Christmas home and her first line being the well articulated proverb “fuck”. This single word entirely encapsulates the kind of Diana we are going to watch. She was the people’s princess but here we see her in private with no filter. The film goes on to follow Diana seemingly in her worst state over the course of three days, which just so happen to be the Christmas period. The fact we get such a solemn and beautifully tragic story set in the time of a holiday which is usually all about joy and excitement, brilliantly summarises the thematic exploration of the strain of having to keep up a facade. This theme is explored very literally with it being acknowledged by characters, with Prince Charles even saying a quote which goes along the lines of “there has to be two of you: the real you and the one the camera sees”. As well as this, we get personified compositions of this idea. For example, we see Diana doing certain things before soon finding out these actions were just figments of her hidden desires and didn’t actually happen. These were all quite shocking compositions which acted as a striking opposition to such a visually stunning piece, Spencer is very meta in this manner. The film itself keeps up appearances despite what lies beneath the beautiful cinematography. Even the score, which consists of lovely classical pieces aren’t quite perfect. There are moments which are ever so slightly dissonant which cause a very subtle sense of discomfort. 

This all revolves around Diana being a prisoner to the monarchy. She is watched, she is observed, she has to follow every rule, she is quietly yet so obviously judged, she is not truly loved by those who should and she is not helped when she needs it most. And she is not a woman who can be controlled, she is too free-willed making all of this even more of a strain on her character. This makes her seemingly slowly go insane. Although thy isn’t in fact happening despite obviously appearing so, she’s just under so much pressure she has to express her emotions in some way. This makes her tragically lash out at her self as there is no other way for her to exert these emotions she has to suppress, the film does not hold back in showing you this in shocking detail, but it is all the more effective for it. It has purpose. 

Spencer acts as a slow descent into ‘madness’. As the film goes on we inch further into Diana’s mind, which is fiercely hazed, the further we descend the further we stray from reality making us truly believe that she’s losing her mind. But when Diana manages to indulge in normality, through simply walking on the beach and laughing with her friend and eating fast food with her children (who’s love for their mother is so so touching) she is completely grounded. She isn’t mad she is just overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations of being a member of the royal family. If we were stripped of all the normal and simple things in life that make us happy I’m sure we too would go insane, I think this was the commentary the film was trying to make. 

I adored this film in every single way you could possibly adore a film. The style directly influenced the substance and vice versa, every aspect and every detail had meaning and purpose. This made for a completely cathartic piece that constantly evoked pathos (I can confirm I sobbed). It is so divine and full of splendour but also doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matters: it’s the perfect balance. The British Royals in general are a sensitive subject and this piece is so bold and brave, just like Diana. I loved the literal comparison to Anne Boleyn as Diana probably is our modern day martyr. This comparison made a distinct point of women throughout history who are continually trapped and who are written out as history as mere problems. But as honourable as Spencer is to Diana, I love how they don’t portray her in this idealistic way that many people have of her. In the film she is sometimes rude, blunt, she swears and is incredibly passive aggressive (also think this gives me opportunity to share my favourite quote of the film: “please leave, I wish to masterbate”). But although we see these less positive sides to her we understand why she acts that way so you still empathise with her completely. Of course, Christian Stewart’s stunning performance is the cherry on top of this dazzling film. If she hasn’t proven herself as an actor worthy of praise before she most definitely has done it now. She gets Diana’s mannerisms and characteristics bang on as well as adding sparks of life that bring the character appropriately to the silver screen in a way only an imaginative actor could. It is fittingly idiosyncratic and she hit all the beats. 

I thought this film would be told the same way Jackie was but that was a very foolish thought from me because Diana Spencer and Jackie Kennedy are two different women with two different stories. Of course Larrain’s way of telling Diana’s story would be different, it’s what she deserves.

Side note 1: everyone saying this is the female Joker is a legend. 

Side note 2: this is a Christmas movie in the same way Eyes Wide Shut is a Christmas movie.

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