The chilling trailer for The Princess asks serious questions about the way we treated Diana

As the 25th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana approaches, a new HBO documentary reflects upon the public obsession with Diana Spencer.

From Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping down as working royals to the death of Prince Philip, the monarchy has seen plenty of change and upheaval in the past few years. Even as the royal family continues to make headlines, however, its relationship to the British public is being dramatically reshaped as we question what role the monarchy should play in society today.

One major event that highlighted the fault lines that exist between the public and the royal family was undoubtedly the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This summer marks the 25th anniversary since her tragic passing, which sparked an outpouring of public grief and left a lasting legacy on the modern era of the royal family. Now, one of the defining moments of the 20th century is becoming the subject of a new documentary that looks to bring a fresh perspective on the way the People’s Princess was treated in the public eye.

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Helmed by Academy Award-nominated director Ed Perkins, upcoming HBO documentary The Princess looks back upon the life and death of Princess Diana, exploring the period from her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981 to her death in 1997.

Through the sole use of archival footage, the film will “turn the camera back on ourselves” to re-examine the public obsession with Princess Diana, and “illuminate the profound impact she had and how the public’s attitude to the monarchy was, and still is, shaped by these events.”

Princess Diana leaving her flat at Coleherne Court in London in 1980

The documentary will also highlight the relentless commentary surrounding Princess Diana in the media during the 90s by way of real-time news reports, personal videos, audio recordings and paparazzi footage as it explores questions of complicity.

The chilling trailer for The Princess illustrates the excessive media hype Princess Diana endured from the moment she became a part of the royal family.

Over clips of public crowds, paparazzi scrums and constant, blinding camera flashes, the trailer reveals how everyone had an unsolicited opinion about Princess Diana, building tension through vitriolic statements such as “she has a sick mind”, “she likes to be bloody well watched”, and “I think she’s very close to being a monster”.

“When you put a modern person in an ancient institution,” says one reporter over footage of Princess Diana’s hearse, “they will be destroyed.” 

In an interview with IndieWire, Perkins explained that the documentary isn’t looking to simply add noise to the existing cultural canon, which has recently seen the arrival of Kristen Stewart’s Spencer, season four of Netflix’s The Crown and Diana: The Musical.

“I’m very aware that this story has been told very widely before. I think it’s fair to say this is one of the most widely-told stories across the storytelling genres ever,” he began.

“I felt very strongly that the perspective that hadn’t really been explored before wasn’t necessarily trying to get inside Diana’s head. I wanted to try to do something different. The question that really interested me was, what does this story tell us about ourselves? What is our relationship to not just monarch but celebrity? What was our role and perhaps our complicity in this tragic tale?”

“We are trying to allow space in the film for audiences to bring their own hindsights into the story. We really tried with this story to not include the moments that everyone has already seen many, many times over the years.”

The Princess will premiere in the UK on 11 June 2022 at Sundance Film Festival London before a nationwide theatrical release from 30 June.

Images: Getty

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