Pablo Larraín‘s new cinematic masterpiece, ‘Spencer’ (2021), proves that everything may not truly be how it seems behind closed doors. This “fable from a true tragedy”, filled with sophistication and silent agony, is a melancholic drama that follows Princess Diana and her struggle with her mental health as she spends a Christmas weekend with the royal family; and all the while, deciding to end her year-long marriage with Prince Charles.
The wondrous script, heartbreaking (yet gorgeous) visuals, and the concept of fiction based on reality, are entirely what makes ‘Spencer’ an incredible breath of fresh air when it comes to the world of Cinema. And, while cinematic masterpieces aren’t rare, what this film has accomplished feels as though it would be hard to mimic; along with something that will be incredibly difficult to forget about in simply the best way once the credits have rolled.
A Powerful Woman’s Individuality in Words
Pablo Larraín is not new to depicting notable female figures in history and turning their truthfully tragic stories into admirable fables. Having directed the 2016 film ‘Jackie’ (featuring Natalie Portman), which followed the story of Jackie Kennedy and the days after JFK‘s assassination, it is from this film to which Larraín seemingly took a historical woman and gave her a voice and power to show who she was as herself; solely showcasing her as their own person rather than a part of someone else to which the world as knows. This element especially rings true in the case of ‘Spencer’, and the ways in which she was a part of Prince Charles for so long. But, within this film, we see that she finally gets to reach her sense of individuality.
Let us start with the script and the ways that it was merely only a fraction of what made this movie just so simply perfect. The screenwriter, Steven Knight, develops a complete focus on Diana within this script and captures the essence of who she might’ve been behind closed doors, along with who she was as a person, based on what we could gather about her from the public appearances alone. We all know that Diana had a wondrous and bright personality; someone who was full of life.
But, we truly didn’t know her; which is a tragedy within itself, but also something that she might’ve wanted. This is the main element as to how the script conveys utter focus solely on Diana the majority of the time because this is her moment and time; no one else’s. The script also doesn’t tend to focus too much on giving the rest of the royal family much room within the story as well, which emphasizes this element of how this story is only Diana’s story to live in. The title of the film also indulges Diana’s individuality from Prince Charles as well with the title being Diana’s maiden name.
The Graceful Cinematic Beauty of Spencer
What goes hand-in-hand with the script to capture this sense of individuality is ultimately the visuals. These visuals are rather tear-jerking, yet utterly eye-catching, and they completely pull you into the story where you merely feel like a fly on the wall in the room rather than an audience member sitting there in the theater. There are a vast amount of shots that tend to mainly focus on Diana; mostly shots where she is completely isolated, giving us a sense of the earlier mentioned concept of Princess Diana’s individuality. This is also not to mention how visually attractive the cinematography in this film is, and how its mixture of warm and cool color schemes forms a feeling of familiarity (yet feeling fearful within that familiarity as well). On top of all of this, the script being coupled with the visuals also gives the film a rather amazing sense of pacing.
Despite ‘Spencer’ having a runtime of nearly two hours (117 minutes), the pacing within this film makes everything feel as though it’s happening so quickly in a wonderfully effective way. Nothing feels rushed or too brought out, and there was never a dull moment that happened in ‘Spencer’; and the element of completely being engrossed in what’s going on, and what could possibly happen next, was certainly not absent in this film. Every moment builds on top of each other to develop a variety of elements within this fully-fleshed out story that makes fantastic use of its runtime, and it becomes something more than just the general story of the film itself along the way as well. With all that said, if you’re not one to be able to sit through films that are a little bit on the longer side, ‘Spencer’ will surely be an exception to that.
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Another element of this film thoroughly contributes to this sense of Diana’s individualism (and isolationism): the film’s score. The musical composition of Spencer’s score is meticulously threaded together so well that it perfectly encapsulates every moment that it’s used in each scene; showing how the music emphasizes the theme (or emotion) that the specific scene is conveying, and capturing the essence of Diana’s personality mixed in with classical and elegant melodies. It is thanks to this score that the visuals of the film become even more heart-breaking as our brains are persuaded into becoming emphatic to the melancholic emotions from what’s being presented in front of us.
Princess Diana: The Shining Star That Can’t Burn Out
Furthermore, it’s important to note how Oscar-worthy Kristen Stewart‘s performance as Princess Diana in this film, and how she maintains to keep this sole focus on Diana to be rather engrossing to the audience as well through how she’s interpreted the script. Along with this, it also seems that Stewart had done her work to prepare for the role of Princess Diana quite excellently; paying a beautiful homage to a beautiful person. This doesn’t say that the other actors in the film didn’t do an incredible job, but with the seeming theme of individuality and isolationism regarding Princess Diana, it feels as though Stewart’s performance is what ultimately is the icing on the cake for the film.
So, there we have it. With all of this said, it feels right to say that the theme of what ‘Spencer’ follows pays an incredible tribute to Princess Diana. Her story was tragic, and she was a woman who was full of love and kindness, so it utterly feels right that her own story would be a fantastic cinematic masterpiece; even if it was somewhat of fiction. Overall, ‘Spencer’ proves itself to be different from everything else that depicts Princess Diana. It is a film that will be hard to forget for quite a while, and Larraín does this by making the tears roll as you silently mourn a woman who you didn’t know. But, someone who you know deserved more in life.
By Leah Donato
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