Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again
A Neo-Noir with fine performances and a fun set of twists — like only … opera can deliver.
As a child I loved Shakespeare, so as a teengaer I was one of those theatre kids. What else was I going to be in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, PA? In the 90’s, if you were a theatre kid, there were a couple of things you were required to know about: The Phantom of The Opera and Kenneth Branagh.
I’ll save a Phantom post (or three) for another time, right now let’s talk about Branagh, and specifically his film ‘Dead Again.’
This little puzzle of a film has Hitchockian sensibilities that lend an easy language for the film to use. It features twists that are so much fun they’ll make you long for the theater so you can hear others gasp at their reveal. It’s a fun movie — that moves so fast I’m always surprised that it’s 1 hour, 48 minutes.
The two parallel stories — one told in black and white and the other in color (apparent later decision by Branagh and a great one) — show just how messy linked souls can be.
The black and white story is the one of Margaret and Roman Strauss (played by Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh — they were married at the time) — a world-famous conductor and his musician wife — as they go through some challenges. Namely, that Margaret thinks the maid and her son are taking too much from Roman — and Roman thinks that his wife is getting a bit too close to Gray Baker, a reporter. It all ends with Margaret dead, stabbed to death with scissors, a beautiful anklet stolen — and Roman behind bars for her murder.
43 years later, in color (ha!), an amnesiac woman unable to speak (Emma Thompson) turns up at the orphanage where reporter Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh) grew up. He gets his friend, Pete (Wayne Knight) to publish her picture and story in the paper in the hopes that more information could be found. An antiques dealer named Franklin (Derek Jacobi) who likes to hypnotize people (and try to get information on any antiques they may know about) contacts Roman and suggests that hypnosis might help her recover her memories.
Mike nicknames her ‘Grace’ and starts to fall in love with her, and the two begin to…