The mother of Prince William and Prince Harry—on one hand the People’s Princess and on the other a thorn in the Crown’s side from the moment she and Prince Charles said “I do,” depending on whom you ask—will have been gone 25 years on Aug. 31. She’s one of the most dissected public figures of all time, her relationship with the royal family, the press and the citizenry that alternately adored and excoriated her seemingly examined from every angle.
But the HBO documentary The Princess, composed entirely of archival footage and commentary from the 1980s and ’90s, throws it back to the era in question as her life was unfolding: No reenactments, no narration or contemporary analysis of a bygone time. Much of the ambient noise is provided by the sound of camera shutters clicking away.
The end result is not an attempt to see the “real” Diana behind the scenes, but rather an unsparing look at how her real life was turned into a 24/7 spectacle. And it’s unclear, 42 years after the British press first got wind of the heir to the throne’s most promising love interest yet, whether anything has changed.