Oliver Hirschbiegel talks about the harsh reaction to his Diana biopic and how he believes she may have had a “premonition” about her own death.
German director Oliver Hirschbiegel has said his approach to making a biography about Princess Diana was very “unBritish”.
“It’s obvious by now that I like a good challenge. I liked the idea of pissing certain people off by doing a very straightforward, truthful, deep, emotional love story about Diana and Hasnat Khan,” he said at a press conference at the Zurich Film Festival.
“I tried to get that down as truthful and, if you will, as unBritish as possible and then try to create an authenticity.”
Asked to explain his comment, Hirschbiegel said: “The key approach of the British is sarcasm and irony, isn’t it? That’s the source of the most brilliant humour in the world. They are the masters of humour. At the same time, these means are used to deflect – and I don’t want to sound racist – to deflect the deep emotions and drama of life.
“We Germans or the French, for instance, we tackle that as it is. But to me it always seems like the Brits need that filter of irony because it’s sort of embarrassing to be exposed, just being emotional.
“Diana had all that. She was not using these means. She was very direct, very honest and very innocent in a way, which was always mistaken for naivety, which is not true. She was a deeply spiritual person.”
The film was released in the UK to decidedly mixed reviews on Sept 20. Responding to the reaction of the British press, Hirschbiegel said: “In a way, the reaction of the UK press is a total déjà vu. It’s exactly what happened back then, if we want to remember what the [Daily] Mail would write about her back then – really vile things. In a way, I guess I succeeded.”
Referring to his Oscar-nominated 2004 film Downfall, about the last days of Hitler, the director added: “You never really know what you’ll get when you make a film. For me, there’s a bit of déjà vu because the reaction to Downfall in my home country of Germany was pretty similar.”
Talking about his research, Hirschbiegel said he discovered something that wasn’t in the official inquest and was used in the film, which made him believe Diana had a premotition about her fatal car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997.
“Diana would always have a phone with her, at least one, but left her phone behind at the Ritz as well as her handbag,” he said.
“She always had these big handbags. And she would never, ever, ever not have that with her. I thought it couldn’t be true and did research. We got in touch with police and read the report again and it said that was absolutely correct.
“That’s why I have it in the film because it seems like she had a premonition that she wouldn’t need all that anymore, which I find eerie and haunting.
“That speaks to my interpretation of her being a very spiritual person.”
Asked about future projects, Hirschbiegel said: “I’m just reading and considering things right now.
“It depends on the character, script and story that feeds my appetite but it might be a gangster movie. The Americans want me to do television and, as we know, the good writers are in television now so I might do that. They want to get some foreigners now.”
He added that while he “misses” directing German-language films, there are few scripts that interest him. “The problem with the German market is we do not have that culture of developing scripts or the scripts that are developed are not for me. They’re comedies or for children. But as soon as there’s something that fascinates me and is interesting, I’ll immediately shoot in Germany – even for television.”