There is no aspect of her life story (first a fairy tale with a real princess, then a royal nightmare) that has not already been examined from all angles.
Nevertheless, Ed Perkins’ documentary film “The Princess” is perhaps the only possible form at this moment of Diana’s reception to review the myth, the self-stylization, but also the public dismantling of Diana Spencer. The British director works exclusively with contemporary material (television images, news reports, interviews with paparazzi and citizens): not necessarily to get closer to his protagonist, but to capture an image of the time in which the royal family – after it had long been a target for had served the punk movement – suddenly experienced an unexpected pop moment.
And he turned out to be so alienated from “his” people that the damage to his image was considerable. At the latest when the arranged marriage between Charles and Diana became public, the House of Windsor had lost its good reputation, even among loyal monarchists.
“The Princess” is particularly interesting because it does not look at the Windsor soap opera from today’s perspective, but works with contemporary commentaries. So the audience involuntarily becomes complicit, as was the case recently with the Netflix production “Gladbeck: Das Geiseldrama” by Volker Heise, who also uses news material. You are guilty a second time of a curiosity, with which many people made a lot of money more than thirty years ago – and also talked about it unabashedly in front of the camera.
Even if Diana has enjoyed the attention of photographers (and used it for her charity projects, among other things), the celebrity manhunt revisited in The Princess — and which eventually led to her death — was inexcusable. This is also a parallel to the Gladbeck hostage drama: The media criticism that resonates in the pictures from back then has lost none of its validity today.
Prince Charles, of all people, provides a beautiful media-reflective moment in “The Princess” – in a scene that really deserves the name “found object”. He explains to little William how a film camera works with the words: “There are people in there. Look at her. They are trapped in it.” There is hardly a better way to describe the British royal family.