Princess Diana She was the most photographed woman in the world of her time.
So when Ed Perkins came up with the idea of making a documentary about his life using only stock footage, the British filmmaker had a lot to work with.
“La Princesa”, which opened the Virtual Sundance Film Festival Due Thursday and to be released on HBO later this year, it examines the seductive life of the royal from her 1981 engagement to Prince Charles of Wales to her tragic death in 1997 in a car accident at age 36. The 104-minute film, which arrives in the middle of a flurry of Diana projects, eschews the usual documentary conventions of talking head interviews and narratives, and instead tells the story entirely through images, news clips, audio recordings, and interviews with Diana and Charles from that period.
“I felt that a documentary that eschewed traditional retrospective analysis and opted for something more immersive could offer something to the conversation we still have about Diana 25 years later,” Perkins tells USA TODAY.
“Princess” arrives hot on the heels of multiple stage and film versions of Diana’s life, including Kristen StewartOscar contender “Spencer.” Diana’s youngest son, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan Markle have also been subject to similar levels of scrutiny and invasive media coverage, which played a part in their decision to step back. the royal family in 2020.
“I hope that (this film) provides a more complex understanding of both Diana and the relationship we still have with the royal family, mediated through the press,” says Perkins. “In many ways, some of the tensions and fault lines that still exist in that relationship can be traced back to Diana.”
Question: What was your relationship to Diana’s story before “The Princess”? And what new lens were you hoping to bring him?
Ed Perkins: The day Diana died, I was 11 years old, and I remember being woken up by my parents, who were very emotional about it in a way that I found surprising. There was this national wave of grief and mourning that I had never seen up to that point and I don’t think I’ve ever seen since. Adults mourned this person as if it were their own mother or daughter.
There have been a lot of documentaries about Diana, but I really felt like we had a different perspective to tell it. A lot of movies have been pretty interior in their approach: they were trying to get inside Diana’s head and explore her psychology and the breakdown of the marriage. All of that is interesting, but I think it probably involves some degree of speculation.
What I found most interesting was what Diana’s story could say about all of us. Using that archive-only form and not actual interviews, my goal was to try to turn the camera on all of us and ask, “What is our relationship to the monarchy? To celebrity?” Diana’s constant harassment (by the paparazzi) was very difficult to watch without ceasing and I wanted to explore our complicity. We create the demand for those (sensational) photos and articles to be written.
Q: How long did it take to select all of this footage?
Perkins: Safe to say thousands of hours. We had an amazing team of co-producers and researchers scouring the world for months and months trying to find anything and everything about Diana. We tried very hard not to use the same famous moments from this story, and instead tried to find those “needle in the haystack” moments that hadn’t really been seen before. Making an archival-only film is a gargantuan task that took the better part of two years.
Q: There’s a clip that really caught my eye of Diana shielding her face from photographers with a tennis racket, but still stopping briefly to greet a girl who gives her flowers. Do you think that’s pretty emblematic of how Diana behaved?
Perkins: It seems to encapsulate one of the many paradoxes that define Diana. Sometimes he hated the attention of the press, for good reason. And yet, we know that he sometimes sought it out and used it for good causes. In the wake of her death, because she died at such a young age, we went through a process of almost canonizing Diana. Part of it felt like an airbrushing of what made her and her life so interesting. She had a willingness to be honest and to make mistakes, and also this extraordinary combination of beauty and vulnerability that disarmed people. Our challenge with this film was finding those rough edges.
Q: There are so many other disturbing moments in this film: journalists proclaim that Diana’s wedding is just the “beginning” of her fairy tale, or that she has at least “20, 30, 40 years” of public life ahead of her afterward. to divorce Charles. . One reporter even says: “When you put a modern person in an ancient institution, it will be destroyed.” How did it feel to find these news clips that became almost sadly prescient?
Perkins: It was unsettling to see that and hear people make predictions about what will happen. There were times in Diana’s life when the press didn’t always say good things about her and much of that has been forgotten. Part of the process of making this movie was re-exploring some of those difficult emotions that we felt when we accused her of being manipulative, or whatever. It felt important to bring them back, that’s the truth of how we experienced the story at the time.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism