Kenneth Branagh

(not including the Shakespeare ones)
6.7 Dead Again (1991)
6.5 Peter's Friends (1992)
4.0 Love's Labour's Lost (2000)
5.0 Sleuth (2007)
5.0 Thor (2011)
5.0 Jack Ryan - Shadow Recruit (2014)
5.0 Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
6.0 All Is True (2018)
5.2 Artemis Fowl (2020)
7.0 Belfast (2021)
4.0 Death on the Nile (2022)

Kenneth Branagh (Britain, 1960) initially specialized in adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays: Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), A Midwinter's Tale (1995), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), As You Like It (2006), The Winter's Tale (2015), Romeo and Juliet (2016), etc. He also played Shakespeare himself in All Is True (2018).

His other literary adaptations include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), Sleuth (2007), from the Anthony Shaffer play, Cinderella (2015), Jack Ryan - Shadow Recruit (2014), from Clancy, Artemis Fowl (2020), from Eoin Colfer's 2001 novel, and two adaptations of Agatha Christie's famous novels: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022).

He then directed original material. For most of its duration, Dead Again (1991), scripted by Scott Frank, is an impeccable, fast-paced and almost baroque Hitchcock-ian thriller with plenty of suspense, plot twists and shocking revelations, and visuals that evoke Orson Welles. Unfortunately, it is ruined by the happy ending (an over-the-top, pathetic, implausible, incoherent and absurd ending, one of the most ridiculous fights ever). It is bad enough that we have to believe in reincarnation (even with gender switch) and hypnosis in order to follow the story. Both Branagh and his real-life wife Emma Thompson play two roles.

Th film opens in 1948. The newspapers report the murder of a Margaret (played by Emma Thompson), stabbed to death with scissors and robbed of a golden anklet. A jury finds her husband, famous composer Roman (played by Branagh himself), guilty of the murder and he is sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, Roman asks to meet with reporter Gray and states again that he loved Margaret. When Gray asks him if he murdered her, Roman seems to whisper something in Gray's ear. As he is being led to the electric chair, we see that he has scissors in his hand and tries to kill a woman who is waiting and smiling at the end of the corridor. In the present, a woman wakes up screaming: it was her dream (played by Emma Thompson again). There's a strong thunderstorm. She is a mute with amnesia who has been sheltering in a religious orphanage, but the priest in charge has decided to get rid of her because they are not a mental hospital. He summons a former child of the orphanage, who is now a private eye specializing in missing persons, Mike (played by Branagh himself). This Mike has an eccentric friend, Cozy, a failed psychologist who now works humble jobs. Mike has no choice but to drive the woman, whom he names Grace, to a mental hospital, but he himself is terrified by the atmosphere in the hospital and so he takes her to his own house. He then asks a journalist friend, Pete, to publish her picture in the newspaper hoping that someone will recognize her. She has nightmares in which she sees Roman killing her with scissors, basically that she is the reincarnation of Margaret. A man, Franklyn, shows up after seeing the picture in the newspaper. He doesn't recognize Grace but suggests that he could help her regain her memory with hypnosis and invites them to the antique shop that he runs with his elderly mother. Under hypnosis, Grace revives the first encounter between Margaret and Roman, how she met alcoholic journalist Gray at their wedding, how Roman gave her a precious anklet. Grace awakes from the hypnosis screaming and she has regained her ability to speak, but she still doesn't remember who she is. Franklyn shows Grace and Mike an old magazine that has the story of Roman murdering Margaret. Grace looks like Margaret, and Mike looks like Roman. Mike takes Grace to see his friend Cozy, who has an even humbler job as a store clerk, who encourages them to trust the hypnotist. Soon, Mike and Grace fall in love, but just after they sleep together a young man shows up claiming to be Grace's fiance'. The young man is about to take Grace away when Mike realizes that he is lying. The man runs away and Mike chases him in vain. They return to Franklyn and Grace, under hypnosis again, revises the wild party in which the marriage started falling apart: Roman was penniless, trying to finish an opera, and he spotted Gray romancing Margaret. Roman had two devoted servants: housekeeper Inga (Hanna Schygulla) and her boy Frankie. They escaped with him from Nazi Germany, a trip during which his wife died. They make sure that he overhears a phone conversation between Margaret and Gray which only makes him more jealous. And later Margaret catches Frankie stealing her jewelry. She demands that Inga be fired but Roman refuses because Inga saved his life during their escape. Margaret tries in vain to show Roman that Inga cannot be trusted, based on what Gray discovered about their past. Grace has another nightmare during which she recognizes that Mike was in her previous life, and is scared of him, and Mike makes the mistake of calling her Margaret. Mike now accepts to be hypnotized by Franklyn and indeed revives scenes of Roman's life but... from Margaret's viewpoint! He is a reincarnation of Margaret, and Grace is a reincarnation of Roman. Mike flees terrified, looking for help from his friend Cozy, who now works an even humbler job. Meanwhile, Pete has found Grace's real identity: she is artist Amanda, who lost lost her memory after being mugged. Pete and Franklyn take Amanda to her home and studio, where she specialized in paintings and sculptures of scissors, including a big scissors sculpture. Franklyn convinces Amanda that has to protect herself from Mike, who is about to reenact Roman's murder of Margaret, and insists that she takes a gun. Meanwhile, Mike tracked down Gray and visits him in the nursing home where he is confined. Gray tells Mike that Roman didn't whisper anything in his ear: he simply kissed him after stating that he loved Margaret and would never hurt her. He tells Mike to find Inga, who now runs an antique shop... and Mike realizes that Inga is Franklyn's mother, and that Franklyn is Frankie. Mike finds Inga alone at the antique shop and she confesses that she was in love with Roman and jealous of Margaret, that Frankie killed Margaret with the scissors and stole her anklet the very night that Roman completed his opera, which nobody ever heard. Inga tells Mike that Franklyn lived in fear of Margaret returning from the dead to take her revenge and hired an actor to impersonate Amanda's fiance'. Inga returns the anklet to Mike. Franklyn has overheard, unseen, and, when Mike leaves, he kills his own mother. Meanwhile, Mike tries to alert Amanda but Amanda has barricaded herself inside the apartment, fearing that Mike is coming to kill her. When Mike manages to enter from a window, she shoots him with the gun. If Mike is the reincarnation of Margaret and Amanda the reincarnation of Roman, Roman has just killed Margaret. Franklyn appears, congratulating her for the murder. Amanda now recognizes Franklyn as Frankie and tries to shoot him but the gun only had one bullet. Franklyn knocks her unconscious and then prepares the scene to make it look like Amanda and Mike killed each other, even stealing again the anklet, but Mike miraculously revives in time to stop him. Pete walks in just then and messes up the situation, thinking that Mike has gone crazy, but Amanda revives and stabs Franklyn with the scissors. In the fight that ensues, Franklyn impales himself on Amanda's scissors sculpture. During the fight we see scenes of how Roman found Margaret's body back then. Mike and Amanda kiss while we see flashbacks to Roman and Margaret kissing.

Peter's Friends (1992).

He also adapted Mozart's opera The Magic Flute (2006).

One of his worst movies is the superhero movie Thor (2011).

His most personal movie is Belfast (2021), set in his Northern Ireland in 1969.

(Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )