An erstwhile “Diana” fan, Does the then-small, powerless, quiet Diana have much to teach even a celebrity who could mount a global bequest? First look at a web-based short film co-directed by Isabella Rossellini and Rhys Ifans.
If you waited to see the “Diana” feature film until it hit the festival circuit last year, you won’t like the contents of a newly published collection of screenplay excerpts from the as-yet-still-unfilmed biopic — itself rife with page-turning potential. At least it seems like the urge to peak ahead may have been spontaneous.
The items published this week by The Zone, an online literary journal, certainly produce some interesting shots of the production. But it’s not always clear what Isabella Rossellini’s and Rhys Ifans’s scripts were trying to accomplish — another continuous-shot shot, after all, just makes it all feel like more nonsense.
The back story is that after Diana’s death in 1997, British director Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose “Downfall” documentary had won an Oscar, and his team had been developing a film about the royal legend. To satisfy the many royal bureaus and organizations involved, they began to write out a comprehensive character study of Diana. Ultimately, the final scenes of the film would focus on Diana’s relationship with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, who was ultimately barred from ever participating. At the time, a spokesperson for the director said he couldn’t take on “a film that purports to chronicle Diana’s life with Hasnat but which takes place largely in the moment after her death.”
It took until 2016 for the final script to surface, and it was ultimately shelved at that point. (None of the good stuff made it into Hirschbiegel’s 2006 adaptation of “Downfall.”) Earlier this month, the Republic News website in Germany ran extracts from the screenplay, almost all of which feature Khan at the center of a morally tricky love triangle — all in a plot that complicates the status of prince Charles’ newfound childhood love, Camilla Parker Bowles. That wacky tale: Charles (Matthew Goode) is coming back from court in Prague with a new baby and Camilla’s team wanted to whisk the prospectively growing baby off to Paris. “Disgrace! It is indecent! Would no responsible public woman give in to this kind of shameless dishonesty?” William (Ralph Fiennes) says at one point. “I like Diana! I do!” Charles counters, while Camilla says Diana “loves sons and a young princess. But she wants the ‘Diana diamond’.”
The lack of forward momentum is only heightened by the choice of screenwriter, based on the best-known author to ever write for Hollywood, Farhat Nimr: Matthew Thomas, a novelist who turned out the frustrating “Narcissus: One Love Story,” and later, for “The American President,” regrettable as any presidential movie.
Assuming they actually got the scripts right, what did Diana really have to teach a narcissistic celebrity with a wizard of diversion lurking behind each thronehead and palace closet door? That she would have been better off with her much younger boyfriend, the late Dodi Fayed, or even the not-yet-fatherly hubby of her long-standing but far too-long-forgivings Camilla Parker Bowles?