Directed by Jason Ritchie
Written by Jason Ritchie
Starring Samuel Clemens and Anna Brophy
Indie Film Review by Seamus Conlon
Trying to offer a plot synopsis for The Diana Clone feels a bit like staring into a Rorschach test – which plot that I see should I describe? And what does it say about me that that’s what I thought the plot was? The narrative centre of the film is utterly unfixed, even before taking into account such apparently pointless digressions as a scene spent with characters deliberating as to whether or not to kill a tormented dog to put it out of its misery, only for an inexplicable panda to appear deus ex machina and solve the inconsequential problem, or an unsettling domestic scene where we witness one adult character being coddled and fed by her parent, who shortly after verbally and physically attacks her for being a prostitute.
Perhaps the single constant in the shifting chaos is the clergyman Jake, played by Samuel Clemens. A letter leads him to the home of a young woman called Melissa, played by Anna Brophy. Melissa has an alarmingly religious devotion to the deceased Princess Diana, possesses DNA remnants of the princess, and intends to impregnate herself with the contents so as to give birth to a clone. That is to say nothing of a tangential subplot also introduced to us early on involving the polite bu sinister Trinity, played by Jilian O’Dowd, who has a chip on her shoulder about an abortion she reluctantly had when she was younger. This was implied early on in the film by important, but what the significance of Trinity and her grievance was is never satisfactorily explained, even if she does temporarily become a character of consequence when wielding a gun. Jake subsequently becomes entangled with Melissa’s twin sister, Ruby (also played by Anna Brophy) and they become hunted by a gang who have long held power over Ruby and who are desperate to block the maniacal plans of Melissa. This is to say nothing of the narrative’s excursions into a brothel along the way to this point.
Writer and director Jason Ritchie has dispensed with coherence and focus, and the results are a film impressively schizoid and entertaining in its absurdity. Even once ‘The Diana Clone’ has established its madness, you’ll find yourself being by turns both amused and alienated by its deviations.
During the closing credits text claims that Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman inspired the film. In terms of subject matter it is easy to see these influences – the doppelgangers and melting identities nod to Bergman and Lynch, the MacGuffin-heavy and labyrinthine plot, in which the primary focus of the film is revealed to be something other than what it appeared initially, seems to have come from studying Hitchcock, and the sleazy and suited organized crime underbelly is obviously derivative of Tarantino’s early work. But for its admirably demented content and baffling swerves of both narrative and tone, The Diana Clone lacks the stylistic and technical invention of its influences. Whilst the opening sequence does contain some impressively ominous Lynchian sound design, it contains remarkably little surreal imagery for a film of such fantastical content, does not show the aptitude of manipulating images of the human face that Bergman does, and shows none of the maximalist technical virtuosity of Tarantino’s genre homage films. Of course, The Diana Clone is under no obligation to mimic the technique of its forerunners, but Ritchie has perhaps misidentified the power of the those great films as being in wacky plot rather than vision, and the result is a film that is laudably unhinged but unimaginative in its execution.