Is it too soon to make a film about Diana's death? Certainly, it's too soon to make a bad one

Besides being irredeemably dull, this takes director's license too far


Every so often there comes a film so excruciating, you find yourself worrying that you are in a real-life Truman Show and the rest of the world is watching you from behind the cinema screen and laughing at you as you sit through it. Diana is one of those films.

The new biopic about Princess Diana and specifically about her love affair with the heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan, premiered on Thursday and is released in two weeks. It is 113 minutes long. You can do a lot in 113 minutes – defrost a freezer, drive around the M25, watch William & Kate the TV drama one-and-half times. All of these, arguably, would be more edifying and enjoyable than sitting through Diana.

It was never going to be Citizen Kane but on paper the film looked like it might just work. It is made by Oliver Hirschbiegel, Oscar-nominated director of Downfall, about Hitler’s last days. It stars Naomi Watts and Naveen Andrews and has a class supporting cast including Juliet Stevenson, Geraldine James, and Douglas Hodge as Paul Burrell.

Unfortunately it also has a leaden script which sees Diana asking her surgeon lover questions like, “How long does a heart operation go on?” (Baffling answer: “You do not perform the operation. The operation performs you”) and, coquettishly, “So… hearts can’t actually be broken?” Meanwhile improbable scene follows impossible scenario – Di disguised in a wig being wolf-whistled by every man she passes - on Old Compton Street; Di wandering alone, tights ripped, through a deserted night-time London; Di and Hasnat driving to the cliffs of Dover for no clear reason except to tee up a smoochy montage soundtracked by “Ne me quitte pas.”

That last bit, by the way, Hirschbiegel just made up. “They never did that”, he said. “But I felt I needed to show… how much they enjoy each other.” Director’s licence is fine but what if your subject is still so world-famous that she, or even a Hollywood incarnation of her, can make emotive front page news 16 years after death?  And what if many of those closest to that subject are still alive? The question, though, is not whether it is too soon to make a film about Diana’s death. It is certainly too soon to make a bad film about it.

The question is what the motivations - barring the obvious financial ones - for making the film are. As an attempt to get under the skin of the “real” Diana, it fails miserably. Indeed, with its focus on fashion, soupy, half-imagined romance and glamorous sensationalism, it looks suspiciously like a live version of the front pages that hounded Diana in life – only in sharper focus and with added clunky dialogue. No-one needs to see that.

Yawning towards success

Three cheers for Simon Cowell. Not often one gets to say that but this week the multimillionaire mogul did a great thing for an undervalued member of society – the night owl. In an interview with Esquire, Cowell said: “I think being creative in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve never had a good idea in the morning. That’s why I wake up about 11am.”

Now, haters of Il Divo, One Direction and television talent shows might argue that Cowell has never had a good idea after 11am either but superyachts and super straight teeth do not buy themselves so it is conceivable that he knows what he is talking about. And on this topic, he is quite right. It is barbarism to be expected to come up with anything of note before 11am – that is why newspapers don’t get cracking until mid-morning and get more frenzied and focussed as the night draws in. Many times I have tried to explain this to friends who are teachers, lawyers, etc. - responsible types with responsible jobs who leave the house before The Jeremy Kyle Show starts. They just narrow their wide-awake eyes and murmur something about Thatcher surviving on four hours a night.

Now I can tell them that it’s a creative thing. There is just one difference. While we imaginative late-risers are sprawled beneath the duvet, waiting for inspiration to strike before we can think about earning a crust, Cowell could very well never get out of bed again and still make enough off Harry Styles and co. to buy a new yacht every week. Sweet dreams.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot