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30 Things We Learned from Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Dead Again’ Commentary

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Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter revisits Kenneth Branagh’s Hollywood debut, Dead Again!

Kenneth Branagh‘s shift from indie Shakespeare champion to populist film director has seen its ups and downs, but it started with one of the filmmaker’s most entertaining movies. Dead Again (1991) is a mystery/thriller unafraid to go big at times, and the throughline from beginning to end is fun, energetic, and stylish. The film has finally come to Blu-ray — in Australia — and it’s well worth the import for fans. One of the extras is a commentary track by Branagh recorded back in 2000, so we gave it a listen to celebrate the film’s long overdue move into HD media.

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Dead Again.

Commentator: Kenneth Branagh (director, actor)

1. “We wanted to set up the atmosphere of this film immediately,” he says which is why it opens with a “low grind” of a score during the opening credits before ramping up with those murder headlines. The goal was to set expectations early for an entertaining gothic mystery.

2. One of the newspapers is dated December 10th, 1949, which is Branagh’s birthday. “Sorry for the in-joke.”

3. He received an influx of scripts after the success of Henry V (1989), most of them historical epics, but when he read Scott Frank‘s screenplay aloud with his then-wife Emma Thompson they were both gripped from the opening onward.

4. While the black & white was in earlier versions of Frank’s script the detail had been dropped by the time a version reached Branagh. They discovered through previews, though, that audiences were confused by the time jumps — an issue that was fixed by switching the flashbacks to black & white.

5. Roman Strauss’ (Branagh) prisoner number, 25101415, is the date of the Battle of Agincourt — the famed battle featuring Henry V. “We felt that this kind of film was one in which you could allow yourself little moments like that.”

6. Grace (Thompson) awakening from her dream to a stormy night features gothic touches in its visuals and score, and it’s all part........

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