29 December 2006

The Queen, Diana, affairs of state, and plausible fiction

The Queen (UK, 2006)
dir. Stephen Frears
rating: ✶✶✶

Clever writing and skilful montage of news clips create an unlikely, yet reasonably successful film about the tense week in September, 1997 when the body of Diana, Princess of Wales was returned to England for burial. Diana's celebrity pop status won out in the end over protocol, and a reluctant Queen accorded the honour of state funeral to the divorced and disruptive mother of the princes. The look at what was going on behind the scenes at Balmoral and Downing Street is plausible fiction, and an excuse to consider the role of symbolic monarchy and tradition in the modern democratic state, not unsympathetically. Helen Mirren in the leading role is quite brilliant, credible, restrained and ultimately human (as well as a remarkable likeness to the original). Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair is also excellent in his portrayal of fresh young energy in public life, with a clear sense of nation, and its swift changing dynamics (another close look-alike). Other roles are less important, occasionally muddled, and sometimes biased. Younger supernumeraries on the scene add contrast as smart-ass irreverent sceptics, and the film suggests a deeper crisis of monarchy than probably in reality occurred. Ultimately, in any case, the nation appears to overcome whatever trauma there was, with institutions and Her Majesty comfortably intact.


redtown said...

The film is brilliant in every way, save one. The Queen's reaction to Diana's death surely covered a range of ambivalent feelings, and was not just a cold insistence on protocol, as suggested by the film.

Charles tells his mother, "The Diana we knew was very different than the Diana idolized by the public", but this truth is never developed in the film. I'll mention it here.

While the "people's princess" remains the icon of superficial popular culture, the Royals knew a very different, darker character behind the facades of glamour and pseudo-compassion.

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death). For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill. 

Clinically, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, Diana brought her multiple issues into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to deal with them.

Her illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.