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Spencer. A British Tragedy Filmed In Germany

During the period between Christmas Day and New Year, I like nothing more than to pick at leftover Christmas food, watch some of my favourite movies and venture outdoors to embrace the green space around me. This is a time when I like to hit ‘refresh’ and prepare myself for the year ahead and reflect on what I want to achieve in the coming 12 months.

This time around I again enjoyed watching some of my favourite movies, notably some John Hughes classics, when I stumbled upon the Home Premiere section of Prime Video on Amazon. Available to view was ‘Spencer’, which I hadn’t managed to catch at the cinema so far. I thought it would be the most perfect movie to hunker down to after dinner one evening, a movie that I had been so excited to watch, and now could do so from the comfort of my own home.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in "Spencer". Image Courtesy of Neon

Whilst watching Kristen Stewart’s charismatic portrayal of Diana, Princess of Wales, I became utterly besotted by the beautiful exterior shots of Nordkirchen Castle in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, which doubled as the Sandringham Estate, a residence of the British Royal Family. Another dazzling German Palace, the Tudor-style Schlosshotel Kronberg, supplied the film’s interior scenes.

Nordkirchen Castle in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, posed as the exterior of Sandringham

Schlosshotel Kronberg doubled as the interior of Sandringham

‘Spencer’ is described as being ‘a fable of true tragedy’ and depicts imagined Christmas celebrations at Sandringham in 1991. The film takes place between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. The movie highlights the heart-breaking struggles Princess Diana faced during her marriage, but also displays her charm, warmth and humour.

Known as ‘Versailles of Westphalia’, Nordkirchen was largely built between 1703 and 1734 for the Prince-Bishopric of Munster and is the largest of the fully or partly moated Wasserschlosser in that region. Schlosshotel Kronberg was built in 1893 for the Dowager German Empress Victoria, and originally named in honour of her late husband, Emperor Fredrick III.

The film begins with an ariel shot of Diana driving a gorgeous vintage Porsche, alongside scenes of the vast Palace grounds, with its sumptuous, lush gardens and idyllic moat. I loved Diana’s chic outfit - a Chanel tweed blazer, Chanel sunglasses and the classic black caviar quilted Chanel shoulder bag. Quintessential Princess Diana!

Scenes depicting the military precision with which delivery of sumptuous Christmas delicacies are delivered to the Palace are inter-spliced with shots of Princess Diana speeding through the picturesque countryside. I found these scenes to be quite amusing because they were so over the top and outrageous.

The film showcases the opulent interiors of Schlosshotel Kronberg. These were beautifully dressed for the film by set decorator Yesim Zolan. The Palace’s grand rooms were furnished with an eclectic mix of Empire, French, Victorian and Louis XVI pieces, all to convey the impression of items having been collected over the centuries, as would be the case at Sandringham.

The sumptuous hallway at Nordkirchen featured in some of the most prominent scenes

Most of these exquisite pieces were sourced from a Berlin dealer, Miri Antiques and Interiors. Zolan’s talented team placed heavy emphasis on symbolism, frequently portraying Diana as having the existence of a caged bird. Diana’s bedroom in the film contains a 16th century Watts of Westminster tapestry which is covered with birds. Zolan likens this to Diana being a bird fighting for freedom. The bathroom in the Schloss also features hand painted de Gournay wallpaper, again displaying birds, and an authentic freestanding ribcage shower. Other rooms in the Schloss contained many symbolic paintings. Zolan commissioned 60 framed paintings that each told their own story. The subtext of the scene showing the Royal Family at their traditional Christmas shoot is unmistakeable. Visually, however, the attention to detail shown is quite remarkable – impeccable Land Rovers and Barbours aplenty.

Diana sharing an intimate moment with her children inside one of the Palace's grand bedrooms. Image courtesy of Neon

A lavish dining room bejewelled with ornate silverware, candelabras, paintings and crystal. Image courtesy of Neon

Diana and her Lady in Waiting/Confidant posing inside the authentic Victorian Ribcage Shower alongside the de Gournay wallpaper. Image courtesy of Neon

Diana and her Lady in Waiting dressing for dinner in her bedroom. The background includes the Watts of Westminster Tapestry, depicting more birds. Image courtesy of Neon

The rebellious Diana being chased by her Ladies in Waiting through Schlosshotel Kronberg

Diana dancing in one of the palatial rooms inside the Schlosshotel Kronberg

The Royal Family gathered together inside a glittering room furnished with paintings, antique furniture and decadent food

Diana at her childhood home, Park House, in one of the film's final and emotional scenes

Towards the end of the film, which was filled with intense emotion and anguish, Schloss Marquardt in Potsdam serves as the interior of Park House, the early childhood home of Diana. This moment proves to be pivotal for Diana – she must travel back in time in order to move forward. The disintegrated childhood home allows Diana to break free from her demons.

- Ahmer x

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