Branagh to Make New Pinter Version of "Sleuth"

The Scotsman, 9 September 2006
By Mike Collett-White
**Thanks, Jude

Kenneth Branagh will direct a new Harold Pinter version of 1970s thriller "Sleuth," with Michael Caine returning to the project alongside Jude Law.

Branagh said the re-make of the 1972 classic, which featured Caine and Laurence Olivier, would not be an exact copy of the original story about a man who invites his wife's lover to meet him and enters into a macabre game.

"We had a reading of it this very Saturday with Michael Caine and Jude Law and Harold Pinter and, my God, that was a memorable afternoon," Branagh told Reuters on Friday in Venice, where he is promoting his latest movie.

The British actor-director's film version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," set in the trenches of World War One, premiered on Thursday evening at the Teatro La Fenice.

"It's such a wonderful script," he said of the new project. "If you loved the original you'll be quite surprised by this, but I think that it's necessarily very different. None of these guys are interested in making just a remake."

The original movie is based on an award-winning mystery play by Anthony Shaffer.

"You can imagine with Pinter it's going to be different," Branagh added of the Nobel laureate. "It was a thrill to get. It was one of those un-put-downable scripts. I guess we've started because there we were the other day doing it and it is certainly different from The 'Magic Flute'."

Branagh Defends 'Flute' Setting

Branagh's daring decision to set his $27 million Mozart adaptation in World War One has been questioned by some critics, who argue it is too "preachy."But Branagh said he believed the setting 90 years ago is far enough away to avoid overt messages being read into the story.

"I think that one of the reasons for being back there at the beginning of the 20th century was not to be so direct in that way," he said. "At that distance I think it allows a more poetic dimension, so the idea of its politics or what it might suggest by way of the resolution of conflict becomes more poetic than documentary-like."

Critics were impressed with the 6-1/2 minute opening sequence which used computer-generated imagery to create the impression of a single take, soaring from the blue sky to green meadows below and along the trenches before climbing again. They also enjoyed individual moments of drama and comedy, such as when the Queen of the Night enters astride a tank, and the energy of the picture overall.

"The sheer visual verve of Branagh's peppy direction turns this into that rarest of beasts: opera you can eat popcorn to," wrote Lee Marshall in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

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