Tag Archives: Kenneth Branagh

Which Orient Express is yours?

You can choose your Poirot – and mine is David Suchet – and you can choose your Orient Express, if you have one. Unfortunately, for me the two didn’t coincide.

But never mind.

Actually, I don’t remember the David Suchet Orient Express some Christmases ago terribly well. I only recall quite how weird he was. Not David so much, perhaps, as the way he had to portray Poirot in that film.

If we’re talking films, the 1974 express is mine, Albert Finney notwithstanding. And say what you will, but his moustache was far better. Kenneth Branagh’s took over the whole film, especially considering that on a cinema screen you get pretty close up to such growth. But, the man’s entitled to have whatever he wants in the middle of his face.

The question is, do I prefer the old film, because it was better (I’d like to think it was), or because it was my first? As with the Branagh express, the film is full of stars, but I suppose I feel the 1974 stars were starrier, as well as more my kind of star. In this new version all I could think of was who someone had been played by in the older film. Judi Dench vs Wendy Hiller; Michelle Pfeiffer vs Lauren Bacall?

Murder on the Orient Express, 1974

It’s mainly a matter of personal taste. And if this new film was your first, you are likelier to prefer it, even if you try the older one later.

Apart from the ghastly moustache, I mainly objected to the [unnecessary] changes Kenneth Branagh had made. I got the impression from an interview I read somewhere, that he was jolly pleased with his ‘originality.’ Whereas it seemed to me as if he borrowed the worst from the Suchet version, and then changed how the murder was committed. Those sleeper compartments are small, even on a fancy train. Just saying.

I had read the book before seeing the 1974 film. Today it appears many cinema goers might not have, but have bought the book since, judging by increasing sales. This is good. I hope that even a mediocre film can grow fresh fans for Agatha Christie. And crime. And train travel.

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Leave my archipelagos alone!

In his review last week of Camilla Läckberg’s The Lost Boy, the Resident IT Consultant mentioned the standard clichés you tend to encounter in Nordic crime fiction. OK, neither abuse nor suicides are terribly enjoyable, albeit facts of life and probably quite appropriate in crime novels that tend to deal with death and violence.

But I claim the right to have my motorcycle gangs, and my archipelagos! They are a way of life. They are also common enough not to merit cliché-dom, simply because you expect them.

Waffles

Motorcycle gangs are rarely young killers in real life, though. They are middleaged and orderly, living their dream. What’s not to like about wearing black leather and driving around the beautiful Nordic countryside? Stopping for coffee and waffles at some scenic outdoor café, and life is just perfect.

But the crime novelist might be better off not mentioning the waffles.

As for the archipelago; we ‘all’ have one. Strictly speaking, it needn’t be an archipelago. A beach will do. Somewhere by the sea. Or the side of a lake. If the water is missing, there will be forests. And in that forest or by that stretch of water – on or off an island – is a cottage.

Your cottage. You either own it or rent it or borrow it or simply visit someone else’s. Preferably with an invitation. Although the urban myth (?) depicts how you just decide to go visit the Nilssons for the day (or the weekend) because they own that nice cottage, and so by default will be desperate for your obnoxious company. You arrive armed with a packet of biscuits, ensuring they will be so dreadfully appreciative…

You don’t have to be rich. Not on the breadline either, obviously, but you can be – and most likely are – completely ordinary.

Varberg

I have had an ‘archipelago’ all my life, in the shape of a beach on the Swedish coast. The landscape looks like Kenneth Branagh’s Ystad. My first trip I was one week old, and we spent the next eleven summers in the same cottage. It belonged to Favourite Aunt, and the cottage next to hers was Aunt Motta’s, and all the cousins crowded in and slept packed like sardines.

Beach and sardines. Privy. It couldn’t have been more wonderful if it tried.

And it goes without saying that had we been the murderous type, we’d have done the dirty deed in this idyllic and sunny setting. That’s why you set your crime novel in an archipelago. Not because everyone else does.

By my twelfth summer Mother-of-witch wanted her own cottage, so saved and scraped and bought one. (Come to think of it; that’s where the postman thought we’d done the Retired Children’s Librarian in.)

Crab fishing in Steninge

We still holiday there and whenever we go for waffles, the motorcycle gang is sure to follow.

Crime tourists

I’m really very disappointed in you. Not one person last week who could tell me why the trains from Copenhagen airport go to Ystad.

It appears that certain parts of Sweden are at the receiving end of vast numbers of criminally minded tourists. Such hordes clearly need to be directed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Hence the sign for Ystad, which is not all that far away from the airport, and maybe staff got tired of everyone asking.

Ystad is a good place for you to go on holiday. It’s as beautiful as my own part of southern Sweden, and if you go to Ystad I won’t have to put up with you where I go. But do remember it’s not Yshtad.

Funnily enough it would seem that people only start travelling after the crime in question has been filmed, so not much imagination or curiosity for somewhere from the printed page alone. Wallander has been marching round Ystad for many years, but as soon as you send Kenneth Branagh over, the rest will follow.

Now Stockholm follows suit, after the Stieg Larsson books and the first film. You can do Millennium walks between the various addresses where Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist do their stuff. I had hoped to see the film during this visit, but it’s on so late that the broom wouldn’t find its way back to bed afterwards. Let’s hope it’s still on next month.

Stockholm tourist people are even expecting visitors to be tempted to come after watching Let The Right One In. Hah.

The fact that poor Sweden has a currency that does as badly as the pound, means that British visitors can afford to come. So come. But I would like to point out that the place was worth a visit pre-Branagh. And there are a few other areas other than Ystad and Stockholm that are quite nice.