By Stephanie Ornelas
While the story of Princess Diana’s life, legacy, and tragic death has been told many times, no one has told it quite like director Ed Perkins does in The Princess. Using strictly archival footage, he lets the content speak for itself, allowing for an unobstructed, unbiased, and unencumbered approach to a very fragile story. Because of that, it raises the question: ‘Where exactly would the British monarchy be if Princess Diana were still alive?’
Starting just before her engagement and concluding with her untimely death, Perkins uses intimate shots to tell the raw story of “The People’s Princess,” and how she was immediately admired due to her kind nature. In addition, it shows how effortless it was for Diana to rise to fame, and how that ultimately affected those high up in the monarchy.
The documentary is delivered in a fresh and unique way in that there is no narration or talking heads. It’s just raw footage meant to capture moments in time from years ago. Through this footage, the film examines the obsession that surrounds the monarchs and how “the people” played a huge role in Diana’s life as her relationship with them grew far beyond what she had with the royal family, even after she left.
Perkins wanted the audience to be moved by the clarity of the narrative and the revelations that came with it. He also wanted them to have a clear understanding of the destructive machinery of the press as well as widening fissures that have weakened the British monarchy.
One part of the documentary even highlights a shocking and inappropriate call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles while he was still married. It explores how that moment negatively impacted those who looked up to the royal family and for some, even changed the way they viewed the royals forever.
But more importantly, the film displays Diana’s transformation against all odds — from a timid young adult, to a strong woman who found her voice and held onto it. And Perkins does this in a very moving and empowering way.
“This is a documentary I’ve been wanting to make for many, many years and I’ve sort of always believed that the story of Diana is one of the fine stories of our era,” said Perkins.
“I’m very aware that it’s been told many, many times before, but I hope that with our approach, we can not only […] tell the story of Diana, but hopefully point the camera back at all of us to ask some bigger questions about ourselves, about our relationship to monarchy and our relationship to celebrities.”