The Kenneth Branagh popcorn is far superior to the Kenneth Branagh self-invested author and savior of cinema: his Hercule Poirot, egoriferous and pathologically Shakespearian that in Murder on the Orient Express treated his own iconic mustache in the same manner as a superhero comic book costume, is worth ten thousand black-and-white nostalgia dramas in Belfast style.. So welcome, then, the popcorn-movie and welcome A Haunting in Venice, the third installment of the saga directed and starring the British filmmaker and produced by Ridley Scott (speaking of Ridley Scott, here is the trailer for Napoleon, the next and upcoming film directed by the British director).
The story, set in creepy post-World War II Venice on the eve of All Saints’ Day, recounts the most terrifying mystery in the career of famed detective Hercule Poirot. With a screenplay by Michael Green (famous for Blade Runner 2049, Oscar nominee for Logan and previously author of Murder on the Orient Express and Murder on the Nile) based on the novel “Hallowe’en Party” by Agatha Christie, A Haunting in Venice kicks off with a retired Poirot in voluntary exile in the world’s most fascinating city: one evening he decides to attend, not reluctantly, a séance in a decadent and ghostly palace. However, when one of the guests at the house – which has a reputation for being haunted – is murdered, the detective’s investigation takes an unexpected turn, and Poirot will find himself in a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
A Haunting in Venice: Poirot ghostbuster
The first two films in the saga had played so well with tthe ones and with the locations that framed their stories not only in the titles but especially in the atmospheres (the ice crossed by the Orient Express reflected the icy inhumanity of the murder at the center of the story, the mugginess rising from the Nile was an emanation of the crime of passion that would haunt the detective’s genius) that Venice, the most striking city in the world, needed one more scrap.
Branagh locks the audience inside a single building for the duration of the story, with an Agatha Christie typical mystery writer by his side to act as his sidekick (she became famous writing stories centered on his exploits, and Branagh, who directs Agatha Christie inspired films, even finds time to slip in a witty quip about this amusing metatextual game) and has fun playing – perhaps a little too much, but he is known to like to exaggerate – with wide-angle lenses to emphasize and distort the interior architecture, the images of which take on inhuman and monstrous forms (artificial, fake, almost grotesque) like the ghosts Poirot will encounter during his long night in yellow.
Certainly, the personal journey that the detective takes from point A to point Z in this new investigation is less vigorous and meaningful than in previous episodes that had sequentially stripped him of his faith in humankind and the sense of peace and purity he associated with love. Here the retired Poirot is a pure pretext to justify a hesitancy – toward himself, toward the world of ideas, as opposed to the world of spirituality and the supernatural, of ghosts – that we already know is destined to be very short-lived. However, welcome the popcorn-Branagh, as we said at the outset: of the thirty-three Agatha Christie novels centered on the investigations of Hercule Poirot, there are still thirty to go, and if the box office wants them we are already in the front row.