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Spencer Review: The Cinematography of Female Emotion

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The unfortunate story of Princess Diana is one that most of us are all too familiar with. Spencer examines more than just Diana, the princess. It examines Diana, the mother, who was plagued with anxieties during her husband’s public affair. While the particular events in this film are fiction, they are based within very real factors of her life, giving viewers a masterclass in understanding the complexities of female emotions.

Spencer focuses on Diana spending the Christmas holiday with her children, husband, and the rest of the royal family. During this holiday, it is understood that the family is aware of Charles’ — Diana’s husband — affair. This is where her anxieties are mainly centered around, throughout the course of the film. There are multiple scenes that are filled with an often loud and unsettling score, especially in quieter scenes with the absence of dialogue. This easily instills some discomfort within the audience, myself included. We are repeatedly reminded how nothing is a secret among the Royals. From the seemingly harmless sign in the kitchen that reads, “Keep noise to a minimum. They can hear you” to the tacit but more morbid notion of “They can hear thoughts” — reminding viewers that even the most private of thoughts are no longer sacred.

Diana’s anxieties begin to manifest into reality very early in the film. Before going to a meal with the entire family, there is a scene in the bathroom where viewers see Diana’s bulimia in full effect. At the dinner table, she has her first hallucination. At the end of the table, instead of seeing the Queen, she sees Anne Boelyn instead. Anne Boelyn is one of the ex-wives of King Henry VIII, who was beheaded because he believed she was having an affair. This isn’t the last time we see Anne either. After seeing Anne, we see Diana rip off her pearl necklace, with the individual pearls falling into the soup. She begins to eat the soup ravenously, pearls and all. We quickly realize this was all Diana’s imagination as the next scene shows her stumbling down the hallway, clutching the pearls still on her neck. She is trying to take back control of her life, but can only seem to breathlessly grasp at it. 

“You are nothing but currency.” “Everything you say is currency.” 

Throughout the film, Diana is consistently reminded of currency. Her emotions, her thoughts, her actions, her facial expressions, they’re all currency. Anything that can be perceived or scrutinized is considered currency. Through this, she ties her entire being into currency, making the weight of everything she is feeling even heavier. This element is crucial to the build up of the film. Towards the end, Diana visits her abandoned childhood home and is visited again by a vision of Anne Boelyn. In this sequence, we see flashbacks from her childhood and adolescence in comparison to how she’s currently feeling. This sequence is filled with another loud and unsettling score, leading to her finally ripping off the pearl necklace, the remains falling down the stairs into darkness. She is ever present that her feelings are currency, but there truly is no price on emotion.

All of this builds up to her final break at the end. The male guests of the party, including Diana’s husband and sons, are gathered in a field to shoot pheasants. Diana’s sons have previously expressed their reluctance to this so she runs into the field to stop them right before they begin shooting. She states that she will not move until she has her sons. Once they come to her, all three of them run off and drive away in Diana’s car. It ends with Diana taking them to get food in a drive-thru and they drive off singing in the car together. What was anticipated to be an unfortunate ending turns out to be one of joy.

Overall, the different layers of Diana’s anxieties and disorders build up to the tune of an unsettling orchestra and, instead of a full breakdown, we’re given a happy ending. In part, it’s this juxtaposition that helps to beautifully portray the many complex layers of being a wife, a mother, and just simply a woman. We were not given the simple ending of a full blown breakdown from the cumulation of anger and pain. Rather, we were given the happy ending that so many women, who suffer in the way she did, never got. 

Hi there! My name is Emily, and I'm a senior Media Production student and I'm a staff writer for Arts & Entertainment! Some of my interests include reading, listening to music, and photography!
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