‘The Princess’ review: HBO’s documentary on Princess Diana is a raw look at her life and the press that harassed her


Told entirely in clips and video, with barely a narrator’s voice or a talking head, the documentary essentially opens up a time capsule, thrusting viewers into the nearly quarter-century span since the Diana and Prince Charles’ fairytale wedding until their divorce and its aftermath.

Even with the treasure trove of material available, it is a feat of editing and curation. Director Ed Perkins cleverly ended the film with video of the paparazzi chasing her and young Diana peppered with questions from reporters about her upcoming wedding, meticulously bridging the gap between the two.

As for the pundit who has aged incredibly badly, one BBC commentator confidently said that after the wedding and the hype that came with it, “this whole telephoto thing will stop”.

No one can say Diana’s life was undercover, with the season dedicated to her on ‘The Crown’, Kristen Stewart’s star vehicle ‘Spencer’ and Netflix’s presentation of ‘Diana: The Musical’ weighing heavily. still heavy in the rear view mirror.
Princess Diana at a White House event in 1996, as seen in

Even so, the narrative approach employed here eliminates those dramatic embroideries, while fleshing out the old interviews with things like news snippets from everyday people responding to twists in Diana’s story. Towards the end, it includes a particularly striking shot of a man in a crowd shouting at the press, saying they are responsible for his death, drawing cheers from those around him.

Inevitably, “The Princess” is as much a media story as it is about the royal family. This includes a UK commentator saying he thinks Diana is ‘very close to being a freak’ and coverage of the trip to Australia where people flocked to ‘the people’s princess’ while Charles had to acknowledge that she was the main attraction, not him.
These segments give context to the more familiar snippets, such as Diana’s now infamous 1995 interview with Martin Bashir – a source of controversy due to the BBC’s determination over the “deceptive” methods employed to obtain it – in which she said of Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, “There were three of us in this marriage.”

Again, “The Princess” doesn’t introduce anything new into the conversation, but rather deftly filters it through the hard gaze of the cameras as they clicked – and clicked and clicked some more – while Diana was on. life.

“Eventually you get used to it,” Charles says early on, regarding the attention crush.

But his first wife never did, and watching “The Princess” should prompt at least some soul-searching about the gleeful assumption that she lost all privacy when she got that title by saying “yes.” .

“The Princess” premieres Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.