The cinematographer for A Haunting in Venice talked about the differences between the third Kenneth Branagh Hercule Poirot movie and the two that came before.
Branagh’s first outing as Agatha Christie’s famous detective was in the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express. Five years later, its sequel, Death on the Nile, was released. Thankfully, for fans, the wait for the next entry is much shorter.
A year and a half later, Hercule Poirot is already on his next case. This time, he’s in Venice and might have his hands full with a supernatural killer on the loose.
The Differences Between Hercule Poirot's Recent Films
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, A Haunting in Venice cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos shared some of the key differences between Kenneth Branagh's new Hercule Poirot story and those that came before.
When asked what makes Venice unique over Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, Zambarloukos shared how "it's a more unknown film" and that "it's a far more horrific crime:"
“Well... It's a more unknown film, and that has a kind of a more liberating factor, as a filmmaker, and you're starting almost from something kind of unique to begin with. But it's a far more intimate story. It's a far more horrific crime, first of all, so it's a terrifying crime. And it haunts the kind of characters that are involved in this crime, and it haunts the audience. So our approach to this was to really just be... more intimate with the characters, and it would be the performances that would kind of give the audience the feeling of terror."
The filmmaker shared that for this third movie, both he and Branagh "learned a lot from making Belfast," a film the duo made in 2021:
"And we learned a lot from making 'Belfast' with [Kenneth Branagh]. It kind of gave us the confidence in being on a smaller footprint of both equipment and crew. And that created an intimacy... [and] things like moving the camera and elaborate shots were more earned than just kind of taken as a given. So that was really our approach to just be more focused, more simple. Focus on the performances and delve into this kind of human condition, our story.”
While there are differences, with Zambarloukos behind each Poirot adventure so far, what similarities did he hope to maintain?
The cinematographer shared that they aimed to portray "[Hercule] Poirot's thought process" the same way each time:
“I think one of the key elements that you see throughout the three films is [Hercule] Poirot's thought process, which we deliberately chose from the first instance to this, to keep him black and white, and that there is a certain style to his final interpretation that is inside Poirot's head. Although exterior things happen in the three films, in the plot, in the character, in the change of time period, of his demeanor, etc., his ultimate thought process, which delivers the interpretation of the crime, and the punishment of the crime, and the depth of the crime."
He added that "the final catharsis" audiences feel at the end of each film "is always in black and white:"
"And the final catharsis which you feel at the end of the film is always in black and white, and always in some kind of a classic film noir/expressionist way... As filmmakers, that's been a very playful thing that we have engaged with throughout all three films.”
Speaking with The Direct, production designer John Paul Kelly Production Design shared how the team really leaned into "the idea that this was all set in one house" and that the same house "was a character in the film:"
“Our searching point for the [film's atmosphere] was the idea that this was all set in one house - that this house was a character in the film, it was potentially one of the suspects in the film. So it had a kind of prominence that's very unusual for the setting. You know, they're quite often creating a kind of a backdrop to the storytelling, but in this case, this really was, could the House have done it, so it had a kind of prominence. So that kind of gravitas was something that we knew from the start was something we really wanted the house to feel like a very strong element of the storytelling."
But what's next for Hercule Poirot? A Haunting in Venice producer and CEO of Agatha Christie's Estate, James Pritchard, also spoke with The Direct, when he was asked if there were any Poirot stories he wouldn't want to do next.
Pritchard quickly noted that he "would not like to do Curtain" since, with that being Poirot's last novel, that would mean it's "the end of the whole process:"
“I would not like to do 'Curtain' next, because that would be the end of the whole process. So that is one answer. I think one of the great things about my great-grandmother is that actually, her writing is incredibly consistent... So I actually think you could make a movie of nearly all of her books, certainly a good many of them, so I wouldn't not make very many of them.”
When asked if Pritchard thinks that a modernized version of Hercule Poirot, like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes, could ever happen, he admitted that "at some point it'll happen:"
“I think, at some point, it'll happen, won't it? I think what my great grandmother has, at her heart is her stories, her plots. And the thing about great stories and great plots is that they stand the test of time. They don't age, they don't go out of fashion, but also they lend themselves to different adaptations and you can put a story in different time periods... I think great stories can be relocated in time and place. So, at some point, hopefully, after we've made another, I don't know, a dozen movies with [Kenneth Branagh] and 20th Century, maybe at that time, we'll be ready for a modern-day adaptation.”
How A Haunting in Venice Is a Different Poirot Mystery
James Pritchard, an executive producer of the film and the CEO of Agatha Christie’s estate, previously revealed that “the main difference they were looking for [in the next movie] was tonal.”
This led to the new film taking on the horror genre. Pritchard shared how an adaption of a Hallowe’en Party “was a great launchpad” to do just that.
Another big change with this third movie is how different it is compared to the source material. While A Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile were extremely faithful to the original books, Venice will be taking a lot more creative liberties.
Among the many changes is how the movie takes place in Venice instead of an English village. Even the key crime being investigated in the film differs from that in the book.
A Haunting in Venice releases on Friday, September 15.