A Christmas movie, but certainly not a Christmas movie, is the new drama from Chilean director Pablo Larrain. “Spencer” revolves around Christmas celebrations for the British Royal Family in 1991.
Over the weekend at Sandringham House, the Queen’s country residence, a psychologically badly damaged Princess Diana grapples with the stresses of her royal life, including her marriage to Prince Charles, who has long been in ruins.
A woman on the verge of collapse
American actress Kirsten Stewart (“Twilight”) stars in the lead role. How she sounds, how she walks and how she keeps her head unsteady to the side – the similarity to the language, expression and gestures of the real princess is incredible. As for the plot, “Spencer” doesn’t take it too seriously. “It’s a fable of a real tragedy,” says the beginning of the drama.
Director Larrain, who made a similar film about Jacqueline Kennedy in 2016 with “Jackie”, and screenwriter Steven Knight (“Fatal Promises”) show Diana as a woman on the verge of collapse. From his point of view, every photo shoot becomes a drama. The queen’s country house becomes a prison, in which even the curtains are sewn so that no one can look inside. Or outside?
The tight schedule and dress code of the Christmas festivities distance Diana from any individuality. At Christmas dinner, the other royals, who look quite vicious in this movie, stare at her coldly. Between the corridors, she takes refuge in the bathroom to vomit. Her sons William and Harry notice that something is wrong with their mother. Desperate, William asks his mother to pull herself together. But it is not that easy.
Diana has visions of Anne Boleyn that prevent her from even attempting to kill herself. Sometimes Diana thinks she is Boleyn. As is known, she was beheaded so that her husband Henry VIII could marry his third wife. In other scenes, Diana sees her youth dancing in front of her. The only stop is her dresser Maggie (Sally Hawkins) and chef Darren McGrady (Sean Harris), who actually existed and are in real life.
A dark prince Charles
When Diana bends over the toilet bowl, for example, her gorgeous dress covers the entire bathroom floor. Larrain works with calm, beautiful images that always have something unpleasant in them. The loud soundtrack emphasizes the mood, sometimes with dark cello sounds for Christmas dinner, sometimes with wild free jazz, which underlines Diana’s troubled personality.
In addition to Stewart, film veteran Timothy Spall convinces as an annoying watchdog, Sean Harris, who breaks with his image as a psychopathic terrorist in the “Mission: Impossible” films, and Jack Farthing as the extremely sinister Prince Charles. . German actor Richard Samm, who only has a mini role of Prince Philip, is barely visible.
Lots of drama and emotions
The oppressive Christmas weekend of 1991 is at times a difficult affair from the viewpoint of the beholder and almost exhausting to watch. It can be seen both positively and negatively. Better than Oliver Hirschbiegel’s kitschy love drama “Diana” from 2013 with Naomi Watts in the lead role is “Spencer” anyway.
The slightly more dynamic narrative style of the hit Netflix series “The Crown” is easier to digest than this poetic, heavily dramatized and exaggerated version of events, in which the dialogues are overloaded with metaphors and allusions. Did Diana really swear so much behind the palace walls? The fact that she returns her dresser with the words “I want to masturbate” is more due to the creativity of Larrain and Knight, as is the very thick end of the film.
In reality, however, the German-British co-production “Spencer”, which was filmed at Marquardt Palace in Potsdam and Nordkirchen Palace in North Rhine-Westphalia, is a highlight. It wouldn’t be surprising if after being nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes, Kristen Stewart not only received this trophy, but also won an Oscar afterwards.
Spencer, Germany / Great Britain 2021, 108 min., FSK from 12, by Pablo Larrain, with Kristen Stewart, Jack Farthing, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Sean Harris (dpa)