It’s been 25 years since Diana’s tragic passing in a car accident in Paris while she and her companion Dodi Al Fayed fled from paparazzi photographers. Perkins’ doc opens with this moment, captured by a couple on vacation. In their grainy home video you can clearly see Princess Diana’s car speeding off into the night, motorcycle paparazzi hot on their trail. It’s a somber way to begin the doc, but by beginning where we know it all ends, Perkins removes the titillation of waiting for this moment from the viewer.
Instead he takes us on a journey through Princess Diana’s life on film, with no added contextualizing text or talking heads. The media footage speaks for itself, as do Princess Diana and Prince Charles themselves. The other genius of starting with this car footage is it makes you aware from the get go how often she was filmed while driving or being driven. From their wedding day there is footage of the couple’s every move by car; from the transportation to and arrival at the St. Paul’s Cathedral, their exit and procession through London, and their arrival back at home again. Later there’s footage of her leaving the hospital by car after Prince Harry’s birth. In a parallel to her wedding, the car holding her casket during her funeral procession was also filmed from every possible angle.
This obsession with following her movement in cars is seen even in the earliest footage used. A journalist follows Diana as she makes her way to her spunky orange car, asking intrusive questions about her impending engagement to the Prince. This Diana is young (19) and not yet media savvy. But although she is shy, you already see her impish smile and a brief glimpse of who this young girl might have been had she been able to grow outside the constriction of the Royal Family.
In her first official joint interview with Charles as an engaged couple she can barely look at the camera, holding her body inward. She answers with simple, direct sentences. She mostly follows the lead of Charles. Later on in similarly paired interviews, Diana’s transformation is apparent, not just from her fashion choices, but the way she is more comfortable speaking on camera. She holds herself up with confidence. Her answers are playful, often teasing Charles.