I believe in Love: the wonders of Princess Diana, icon of compassion
Warrior, princess, hero, icon, Goddess, and yet fascinatingly flawed. Patty Jenkins’ old-fashioned take on Wonder Woman is all that and more.
Princess Diana of Themyscira, born from the sheer will of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, lives peacefully on Paradise Island with her sisters, despite an ancient curse looming over their ideal matriarchy. When a WWI pilot crashes on the shores of Themyscira, Diana is faced with the endless perils and horrors of Man’s World and vows to defeat Ares, the powerful God of war who has instilled hatred in men’s hearts.
The tale is as old as time. Or at least as old as 1941, the year that saw the birth of the most iconic of superheroines, created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston and inspired by early pioneers in feminism and birth control.
And yet, despite the story being so familiar to comic book fans and people raised on Lynda Carter’s history-making TV version of the character, Patty Jenkins’ take on Wonder Woman feels fresh, topical and exhilarating. Part of that is certainly because this story has actually – and shamefully – never been depicted on film: watching the shot of Diana on the rocky cliffs of Themyscira, captivatedly observing Steve Trevor’s plane crashing in the sea of Paradise Island feels like witnessing the very first time Anna Karenina walking through the fog of a train station was put on film, or Romeo and Juliet exchanging hendecasyllables on a balcony, or, yes I will go there, Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s iconic, it’s exciting, it’s cinema finally acknowledging and making visually immortal another little piece of human literature (and yes, comic books are literature.)
A human Wonder Woman
But it’s not only that. DC comics are known for their epic iconicity, but Wonder Woman is so much more than a cold Imago Dei.
Wonder Woman is flawed. Wonder Woman is driven, but naïve. She’s a willful child and a headstrong woman. She likes stories and needs time to grow into someone who will wisely discern between facts and fiction. She’s full of wonder and curiosity, but also cautious in accepting at face value what a new world brings into her own personal beliefs. She feels excitement when she tastes ice cream for the first time and bursts into a heart-melting smile the first time she sees a baby. She’s, in true ancient Greek fashion, a Goddess who walks among humans mirroring their incoherent and conflicting existence and offering, through learning and suffering, an ideal and an inspiration.
Patty Jenkins’ epic reaches its climax in one single line: “I believe in love.” The simplest of sentiments. In its purity, also the most subversive. Wonder Woman, the weapon of the Gods, the superhero who can bend a tank in two, faces the evils of the world as an ambassador of mercy. She is the hero modern feminism (and the world at large) needs in the delicate historical moment we’re currently living: she’s not perfection on a pedestal, she’s not some detached figment of human grandeur. And she’s not a leader who needs to play the bully to make herself heard. She’s a hero who’s allowed to be weak and to grow, who learns to know the world through the eyes of compassion and accepts the final truth that trumps all wars: recognizing your own humanity in the eyes of your enemy may be the strongest weapon against total annihilation.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya