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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Wednesday June 12th 2024

Movie Corner: A Haunting in Venice

3.5/5 Stars

20th Century Studios 2023



a photo of the author
Howard McQuitter II

First, Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography of Venice is stunning. Second, Kenneth Branagh as detective Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie fashion, I think passes the test here. He has taken Christie’s characters in previous work such as the remakes of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.

Venice seems to draw one in from almost any point. It has ancient villas, grand cathedrals and narrow streets. It also has the sense of romance, intrigue and danger, (at least in the movies). A couple of films that may reflect these sensations are Eva (1962), directed by the late Joseph Losey, a drama/romance; and Don’t Look Now (1973), directed by the late Nicolas Roeg, a drama/horror/mystery.

20th Century Studios

The year is 1947, the winds of World War II in the minds of the people. Detective Hercule Poirot has recently retired and moved to Venice. In one of the early scenes, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is sitting with a friend, mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), somewhere in Venice. She asks him to attend a seance, but he’s skeptical believing seances to be nonsense. To please his friend, he goes along with attending the event. She also has in mind proving Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh, last year’s Best Actress winner for Everything Everywhere All At Once) to be a fraud. The seance takes place at an ancient palazzo the same night some Catholic nuns and children are having a Halloween party there. The palazzo at one time had been an orphanage for children where mistreatment of children was commonplace – even some deaths occurred. There may be ghosts around the mausoleum so be aware of some strange undertakings taking place. However, the seance centers around Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) who lost a daughter Alicia Drake (Rowan Robinson) in the palazzo from an alleged suicide. Yet, something there doesn’t quite fit that her death is by suicide.

As Poirot investigates the cause of death nearly everybody becomes a suspect. The young woman’s former fiancé, the screwy doctor, and the housekeeper become suspects. All during this ordeal it is pouring rain in Venice and nearly every scene is at night. (I wish Michelle Yeoh’s character had received more screen time.) I would also argue that A Haunting in Venice fits more into the category of a “psychological mystery/drama/ thriller”.

Director: Kenneth Branagh.
Cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Michelle Yeoh (Mrs. Reynolds), Jamie Dornan (Dr. Leslie Ferrier), Dylan Corbett-Bader (Baker), Amir El-Masry (Alessandro Longo), Riccardo Scamarcio (Vitale Portfoglio), Fernando Piloni (Vincenzo Di Stefano), Tina Fey (Ariadne Oliver), Camille Cottin (Olga Seminoff), Jude Hill (Leopold Ferrier).
Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir.
Cinematography: Harris Zambarloukos.
Art Director: Susanna Codognato.
Running time: 103 minutes.

Howard McQuitter II is a longtime movie critic. He has been reviewing movies since 2002.

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