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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Venice 78: "Spencer" Review

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

The indiscreet charm of the royals.

Pablo Larrain is back with the companion piece to his critically acclaimed 2016 “Jackie”. Leading this drama-filled fable is Lady D., continuing the remarkable trend of showing just a glimpse, a few days in the life of a historical character enough to get to know them intimately, yet digging deeper than conventional biopics showing the protagonists from birth to death.

The pastel, warm cinematography perfectly captures the golden cage in which the princess is trapped in. A place where “there is no future, and the past and present are the same thing”, where all eyes are judgementally and constantly cast on her. Worth to mention is a masterful sequence in which Diana’s malefactors are first properly shown on screen, almost 40 minutes after the beginning of the film, despite their oppressing presence has always been all over the place: it’s Christmas Eve dinner, and only the pounding sound of silver spoons resounds in the vast hall as the Queen, Prince Charles & Co. scrutinise the highly uncomfortable fish-out-of-water for wearing the improper blazer.

Because dresses are prearranged and assigned to each day, and any spark of freewill is welcomed as a breach of form and personal insult to the crown’s unquestionable traditions. Even the royal family’s physical weight is strictly kept under control, by a menacing Timothy Spall as chief of staff who “watches everything to make sure the others don’t see”.

The untamed Diana is not trying to impose her customs over the Crown’s procedures, but she is only trying not to lose herself. When scolded for leaving her room’s curtains open, at the paparazzi’s mercy, she rebels opening them wide, only to find them sewn together later- this is a battle she cannot win. Abiding seems the only, pre-established path, and even her motherhood is at stake as she is forbidden to raise her children the way she would: normally. Unaccepted among the royals as well as misunderstood outside, there is no compassion for her.

As a bleary warning, Anne Boleyn’s biography is left on her bed. Yet, she finds comfort in the martyr Queen’s tragic life, mirroring her intolerable faith. The beheaded queen was not just an unlucky predecessor, but an icon of perseverance and independence who, despite the many centuries in between, might have been the only person who could truly understand her.


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